15 January 2015

The Importance of Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings

The effective use of infection control practice is essential for of every healthcare professional in order to help minimise the spread of preventable infections.

With flu season fully established and the risk of norovirus infections increased over the winter months, remembering to use good infection control routines at every step is essential.

Hand hygiene is a simple, low cost action and the single most important infection prevention and control intervention. In 2005, The World Health Organisation (WHO) introduced “5 Moments for Hand Hygiene”, which is an evidence based approach that defines the key moments when we, as healthcare professionals, should perform hand hygiene.

The 5 Moments are:

1. Before touching a patient

2. Before carrying out a clean or aseptic procedure

3. After body fluid exposure risk

4. After touching a patient

5. After touching a patients surroundings

The 5 Moments of Hand Hygiene aims to reinforce the importance of hand hygiene among professionals as well as educate patients and members of the public. When washing hands, the Ayliffe technique should be used, which is a 6 -stage process of hand washing to ensure proper decontamination of the hands. Soap and water is the most effective method of hand decontamination, although alcohol gel can be used up to 5 times if hands are not visibly soiled. However, alcohol gel does not kill many micro-organisms such as norovirus and c-diff.

Each person has between 2 and 10 million bacteria on one single arm from fingertip to elbow, so effective hand hygiene plays a vital part in preventing the transmission of pathogens in healthcare associated infections (HCAI’s). Patients that are generally unwell and have a compromised immune system are at greater risk of contracting infections commonly spread through poor hand hygiene such salmonella, campylobacter, flu, impetigo, norovirus, vomiting and diarrhoea, as well as MRSA and C-diff, both of which can be potentially fatal.

While hand hygiene is not the only measure to prevent infection, this simple action can dramatically enhance patient safety. We’ll be discussing infection control practices in more detail on #NurChat on Tuesday 20th January from 8pm.

If you’ve never joined a #NurChat discussion before, it’s a friendly and open forum for all healthcare professionals to share their views on the topic. You join NurChat live in our NurChat app and all you need is a Twitter account. See you there!