Which factor is associated with hand hygiene compliance — age or physician specialty?

Five researchers have suggested physician specialty is more closely related to hand hygiene compliance rates than a physician's age.

The researchers conducted a study at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington using observations gathered by "secret shoppers" and shared their results in a letter to the editor published in the journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology. All total, 209 observations were collected between January 2014 and December 2014.

The hand hygiene compliance rate was similar among physicians over the age of 50 (53 percent) and those under the age of 50 (55 percent). The authors picked 50 as the age to cut off their cohorts because the CDC published its first hand hygiene guidelines in 1985.

"Those who are under age 50 would have likely started their medical education after this document was published," the authors wrote.

The researchers saw the biggest difference between specialties — 76 percent of physicians practicing a medical specialty complied with hand hygiene standards, compared to only 38 percent of those practicing a surgical specialty.

For the sake of the study, hand hygiene compliance was defined as the number of times hand hygiene was observed compared to the number of patient-provider encounters recorded. The overall compliance rate recorded in the study was 54 percent.



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