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Hand Washing Audits for Nursing – Results Frightening

January 5th, 2011 by – Marijke Durning

Do you remember the first practical thing you were taught when you were a nursing student? Chances are, whether you were working to become a registered nurse, licensed practical nurse or even a certified nursing assistant (CNA) , you likely first learned how to wash your hands.

How many of you groaned when you were told you’d be learning something so fundamental, so basic? How many of you were observed washing your hands and then were told by your nursing instructor that you were doing it improperly? After all, we’ve been washing our hands all our life, right? Unfortunately, no matter how long we’ve been washing our hands and  how we were taught to do it in nursing school, hand-washing audits still reveal there are nurses and other medical staff who aren’t washing their hands often enough and/or properly. Scary, isn’t it?

A 2005 Journal of Advanced Nursing article published a study with sobering facts. The findings come from more than 150 staff members who were asked questions both pre- and post- a six-week hygiene program. About two-thirds of the staff members were nurses. According to the journal article:

- Nurses washed their hands appropriately in 50 percent of cases before the program; this rose to 83 percent afterward
Doctors hand washing was at 31 percent before education; this rose to 55 percent thereafter
Hand washing of staff between visits to one patient and then another was  at 48 percent before education; this changed to 93 percent afterward
Hand washing after touching bodily fluids was a low 42 percent before education; this rose to 75 percent thereafter

    The disturbing thing here is that everyone who trains in health care is taught the importance of proper hand washing. Without proper hand washing, nurses can easily (and do) spread infection from patient to patient, from staff to patient, and from patient to staff. In this day and age of stronger bacteria and more virulent viruses, this is a serious matter.

    Interestingly, the two groups of staff who had the best hand washing rates were physiotherapists and care assistants. One could argue that they may have more time to do so and that nurses are overloaded with patients, but that’s not a valid argument. Most facilities now have soapless cleansers available throughout wards and units precisely to allow for frequent hand cleaning.

    So what about you? Do you wash your hands as often as you should be? Have you ever been audited to see just how often you do this?

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    Posted in Common Nursing Procedures

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