Road to Recovery: How Hand Hygiene Can Remain Top of Mind

May 12, 2020 8:00 AM ET
Blog

On May 12th, International Nurses Day, we honor the significant contributions nurses make to society. This year, acknowledging the invaluable role these individuals have made in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic feels particularly important. While nurses continue serving on the front lines, there is no better time for healthcare facilities to reinforce the importance of hand hygiene and sanitization to ensure that nurses can continue to perform their jobs as safely and effectively as possible and provide much-needed care to patients in need.

COVID-19 has reshaped the roles of many healthcare professionals, but it is imperative that healthcare facilities continue their steadfast commitments to maintaining safe and healthy environments for all employees, patients, and visitors. While the world continues to learn more about the novel coronavirus, one hygiene fact remains constant: Washing your hands is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself and others from getting sick. The simple act of handwashing and sanitizing is proven to help prevent the spread of bacteria, viruses, and healthcare associated infections (HAIs) in healthcare facilities.

As communities move into the next phase of COVID-19, healthcare organizations must keep hand hygiene top of mind in all environments to ensure patient and employee safety, and to ultimately reduce the risk of cross-contamination and HAIs. To help healthcare facilities with this task, Tork has developed the Safe at Work: COVID-19 Healthcare Toolkit, which summarizes tools, resources, and materials to aid healthcare practitioners on maintaining proper hand hygiene. 

Keeping healthcare staff informed of the latest protocols and essential hygiene measures will have a profound impact on the post-pandemic world, but driving behavioral change can be extremely challenging. To achieve hand hygiene compliance, healthcare facilities should focus on three areas:

  • Hygiene training 
  • Hygiene tools and dispenser placement 
  • Signage 

Provide hands-on hand hygiene training

With 40% of surveyed healthcare workers saying they would like better training in hand hygiene, healthcare facilities can combine technology with hand hygiene training to help staff easily adapt to the demands of their environment. 

Implementing a technology-first approach to training is an engaging and interactive way to reinforce hand-hygiene and sanitization protocols within a facility. According to educational technology pioneer Edgar Dale, learning by doing (direct, purposeful experience) is essential to keeping learners actively engaged as opposed to being passive observers. In fact, the University of Oklahoma created a similar learning hierarchy that emphasizes the usefulness of virtual reality in the learning process today. Virtual reality apps are readily available and effective means to reinforce the World Health Organization’s “5 Moments of Hand Hygiene.” These apps can serve as an innovative alternative to hand hygiene training. 

Augment access to hygiene tools 

It is equally important to consider the critical factors of hygiene access in a facility, such as location of hygiene tools and hand washing stations.  Dispenser placement is key to promoting hand hygiene compliance within a healthcare environment. Tork research shows that optimizing dispenser placements can increase usage by more than 50%, and that merely increasing the number of dispensers has less of an impact on usage than having fewer, yet more prominent and convenient dispenser placements. 

It is imperative that dispensers are placed throughout walking routes and corridors to ensure accessibility for nurses and other staff on-the-go. Increasing the accessibility and visibility of hand hygiene stations throughout a facility can have a significant impact on hand hygiene practices without adding an extra burden to your EVS staff. 

Reinforce best practices through signage 

Most healthcare staff understand the importance of hand washing, but visual cues for staff and patients are essential in the ongoing education of hand hygiene best practices and are especially helpful for nurses working long shifts. Hand hygiene focused signage is an effective way to further hygiene and sanitization communication with staff, on an everyday basis. In addition to improving health standards, hand hygiene posters can also have a positive effect on a facility’s image. In fact, more than 8 in 10 patients indicate that the presence of hand hygiene signage makes them feel more confident about a facility’s cleanliness and its quality of care. 

These simple steps can have a far-reaching impact on the success of hygiene compliance within a healthcare facility and takes hand hygiene from an afterthought to a long-lasting habit and routine – as it should be.