Preventing healthcare-acquired infections is a hot topic at local, national and international levels. Most would agree that nurses have the most patient contact, and therefore the most opportunity to interrupt the chain of germ transmission through sound infection control practices.
Among the many practices is the simple art of handwashing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hand hygiene is “one of the most important measures for preventing transmission of pathogens in healthcare facilities.” Despite this well-known proclamation, hand hygiene compliance nationally is less than 50% for all healthcare workers.
It appears that handwashing in healthcare settings might not be so simple after all.
As new nurses, we enter the workforce with seemingly high levels of commitment to infection prevention practices. However, somewhere along the way, as the above statistic suggests, our ideals begin to wane at least when it comes to hand hygiene.
Studies have shown that one of the strongest predictors of new nurse hand hygiene compliance is the hand hygiene practices of our nurse mentors. The importance of role modeling to set high standards and to contribute to a culture of safety within a nursing environment cannot be understated. As well, the need for continuing education and hand hygiene reminders is ever present.
Nurses function in an environment of heavy workloads, enormous responsibilities, multitasking and being constantly pressed to do more things in less time, which challenges our time management, priority setting and efficiency of practice. Nevertheless, we need to get back to the basics. We, as nurses must remain mindful of the pressing need for good infection prevention practices, working purposefully throughout our days to keep our patients safe by breaking the chain of germ transmission.
No matter where we fall on the spectrum of hand hygiene compliance (which might differ by the day), I am sure we would all agree that each of us could do better at key moments and situations. Patients have the right to remain free of healthcare-acquired infections, and as nurses, we have a responsibility to uphold that right.
For more information on hand hygiene in healthcare settings, go to www.gojo.com/healthcare or www.cdc.gov/handhygiene.