Tips for Hand Hygiene

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Hand hygiene (i.e., hand washing or use of alcohol-based hand rubs) has been shown to cease outbreaks in health care facilities, reduce transmission of antimicrobial resistant organisms, (e.g. methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus) and reduce overall infection rates.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released guidelines to improve hand hygiene in health care settings.  As part of these guidelines, the CDC is asking health care facilities to develop and implement a means of measuring compliance with hand hygiene recommendations.  Some suggested compliance indicators include periodic monitoring of hand hygiene and feedback to personnel regarding their performance, monitoring the volume of alcohol-based hand rubs used/1000 patient days, monitoring compliance with artificial fingernail policies and conducting an assessment of hand hygiene compliance when infection outbreaks occur.

In addition to traditional hand washing with soap and water, the CDC is recommending the use of alcohol-based hand rubs by health care personnel.

    • Alcohol-based hand rubs are fast-acting, cause less skin irritation and significantly reduce the number of microorganisms on skin.
    • Alcohol-based hand rubs take less time than traditional hand washing.  In an eight-hour shift it is estimated that an ICU nurse may save a full hour by using alcohol-based hand rubs in place of hand washing.
    • Note that the volume of hand rubs needed to reduce the amount of bacteria on hands varies by product.
    • Hand rubs should be used before and after treatment of each patient.

Health care personnel who care for patients at high risk of acquiring infections, such as patients in intensive care or in transplant units, should avoid wearing artificial nails and should maintain the length of their natural nails at a quarter inch or less.

The use of gloves does not eliminate the need for good hand hygiene in health care settings.  Likewise, good hand hygiene does not eliminate the need for gloves.  Gloves reduce hand contamination by 70 to 80 percent, prevent cross-contamination and protect patients and health care personnel from infection.  Gloves should be changed before and after treatment of each patient.

When evaluating hand hygiene products for use in health care facilities, administrators or product selection committees should consider the relative efficacy of antiseptic agents against various pathogens.  They should also consider personnel acceptance of hand hygiene products. Smell, consistency, color and the effect a product has on one’s hands are all product characteristics that can affect personnel acceptance and usage.

KEMI does not assume liability for the content of information contained herein. Safety and health remain your responsibility. This information is to be used for informational purposes only and not intended to be exhaustive or a substitute for proper training, supervision or manufacturers’ instructions/recommendations. KEMI, by publication of this information, does not assume liability for damage or injury arising from reliance upon it. Compliance with this information is not a guarantee or warranty that you will be in conformity with any laws or regulations nor does it ensure the absolute safety of any person, place or object, including, but not limited to, you, your occupation, employees, customers or place of business.