Handwashing in Healthcare Facilities

What one hospital has done to increase compliance.

A March 10, 2010 AJN "Off the Charts" column, authored by Peggy McDaniel, BSN, RN, focused on the continuing problem of handwashing compliance in healthcare facilities and described how one hospital plans to address non-compliance. At Abington Memorial Hospital, in Abington, PA, staff who are non-compliant with handwashing will receive feedback and education about handwashing and repeat offenders will be subject to termination from employment. The column is available at http://ajnoffthecharts.com/2010/03/10/pink-slips-and-patient-safety.

I applaud this approach to addressing handwashing non-compliance. There comes a point when no matter how many times a staff member is reminded about handwashing or no matter how many inservices are given, that personal accountability comes into play. Staff who choose to disregard hospital policy and ignore evidenced-based practice should be fired from the job. Blatant disregard for handwashing, which is perhaps the most important patient safety action that healthcare providers can take, should not be tolerated.

There is really no excuse for non-compliance with hand hygiene in healthcare facilities today. In fact, it's easier to comply than it's ever been. Hand sanitizers are available in most healthcare facilities and are even packaged in bottles small enough to carry in a uniform pocket.

One of the comments posted in response to this "Off the Charts" column talked about frequent keyboard use and the need to keep hands clean. It's an interesting point because healthcare providers routinely use keywords in their work these days and the keyboards often are used by multiple people. I made it a point to watch the keyboards where I work and was surprised to see the number of people who used them. None cleansed their hands by washing them or using hand sanitizer prior to or after their use. Keyboards may be the next emerging area of infection concern in healthcare facilities. In any case, it's a good idea to be cognizant of the need for hand hygiene throughout the day when employed in a healthcare facility.