Clinicians know the value of hand hygiene, but barriers get in the way: study

While the majority of clinicians view hand hygiene as critical to patient safety, environment and other factors can stand in the way of high reliability, according to a new survey-based study led by researchers at Boston Children's Hospital. 

To conduct the study, published March 15 in the American Journal of Infection Control,, researchers developed an electronic survey to identify barriers to hand hygiene, as well as to identify interventions to improve the safety practice. There were 61 respondents, most of whom were physicians. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants also responded. 

Overall, 97 percent of respondents said personal hand hygiene is critical to prevent healthcare-associated infections. However, the survey found aspects of organizational culture, environment, tasks and tools can be barriers to high reliability. 

For example, 87 percent of respondents said the availability of alcohol-based hand rub is very effective in improving reliability. At the same time, 77 percent reported dispensers were "sometimes" or "often" empty. One quarter of respondents also said the layout of patient care areas is not conducive to performing hand hygiene. 

"Improving and maintaining hand hygiene compliance has been a long-standing and seemingly intractable challenge in healthcare," Patricia Jackson, RN, president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control, said in a statement. "This study highlights opportunities to improve hand hygiene reliability through effective application of human factors engineering tools and methods."

Five medical societies recently published updated hand hygiene recommendations for preventing HAIs at acute care facilities. Read about them here

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