May 17, 2019

Clean care for all, it’s in your hands

Hand hygiene is a general term that refers to any action that results in hand cleansing. The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that hand hygiene is the single most effective strategy to prevent hospital acquired infections.

Hands may appear clean, but many germs are invisible to the eye. Some microorganisms can live in the environment for extended periods of time, making hand hygiene vital in stopping infection. Vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE) is an example of a microorganism that can be transferred from one patient to another on healthcare workers hands or via inanimate objects such as observation machines, shower chairs, etc.

Tania Rowe, Infection Prevention & Surveillance – Clinical Nurse Consultant, says, “many staff don’t realise the most important thing they can do for their patients to prevent transmission of disease is to perform effective hand hygiene.”

Hand hygiene is audited throughout the organisation, and the 2019 Audit Period 1 saw Northern Health above the national average when it came to hand hygiene compliance.

“Northern Health overall achieved hand hygiene compliance of 86.9 percent, which was above the national result of 85.3 percent. Several areas showed significant improvements in their compliance,” says Nicole Campbell, Infection Prevention & Surveillance – Clinical Nurse Consultant.

Nicole also says that gloves are not a replacement for effective hand hygiene and can be a problem when it comes to patient care, especially when it comes to accessing IV cannula.

“We ask staff to think about why they’re wearing gloves, are they necessary and has hand hygiene been performed prior to applying gloves and following removal?”

Hand hygiene must always be performed according to the ‘5 Moments’ – Moment 1: Before touching a patient; Moment 2: Before a procedure; Moment 3: After a procedure or potential blood or body fluid exposure; Moment 4: After touching a patient and Moment 5: After touching a patient’s surrounds.

“Alcohol Based Hand Rub (ABHR) is the gold standard of care for hand hygiene practices and results in a greater reduction of bacteria than soap and water. It dries quickly and causes less skin irritation than soap and water, although soap and water should still be used when hands are visibly soiled,” Nicole says.

“It’s also important to remember to moisturise throughout your day to help maintain good skin integrity!”

The message Nicole would like everyone to remember is, ‘clean care for all, it’s in your hands!’

For more information about hand hygiene and Northern Health policies, please click here.