Handwashing, with either soap and water or hand sanitizer, is the first line of defense when it comes to preventing the spread of infection. At Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital, the Hand Hygiene Committee supports Partners HealthCare’s guidelines for proper hand hygiene, encouraging staff to wash or gel before and after every patient interaction. To test how committed BWFH staff are to that directive, the committee recently conducted a hospital-wide survey.
During the blind survey, each unit in the hospital was observed. Surveyors watched 10 staff/patient interactions on each unit and took note of staff hand hygiene habits. The ICU was the first runner up with 80 percent compliance. The Pain Management Center took the top prize with 90 percent compliance.
Hand Hygiene Committee Co-Chair and Quality Improvement Analyst Kathy Newcomb, RHIT, says the goal is for all units to achieve at least 90 percent. “We know that proper hand hygiene is the best way to keep our infection rates down.” says Newcomb. “The Pain Management Center is a wonderful example for the other units. They’ve really worked hard to make hand hygiene a priority and their results show it’s paying off.”
In fact, the Pain Management Center has made hand hygiene into a friendly competition among the staff. Clinical Leader Kathy Armando, BSN, RN, has placed signs around the unit and Purell “everywhere.” When she observes a staff member not gelling before or after a patient interaction, she asks them to donate to the department’s Helping Hands fund. This “punishment” for non-compliance is of course optional. But Armando says it’s a helpful and fun way to promote hand hygiene and do some good for their patients in need. “It’s a win, win,” she says.
Armando credits her unit’s success to their diligence in creating an environment that promotes proper hand hygiene. “A lot of it has to do with where you put the signage and where you put the Purell. We put the dispenser right inside the door. When you walk in, you simply dispense Purell with one hand and push open the door with the other. You have no excuse not to do it,” she says. The team has even attached bottles of Purell to each bedside table.
The Pain Management Center, like the other units surveyed, did not know they were being surveyed and they were pleasantly surprised when members of the Hand Hygiene Committee arrived with goody bags filled with hand-care items and cupcakes to reward their achievement.
Newcomb was pleased to reward the unit’s hard work and encourages other units who struggle with hand hygiene to think creatively about ways to promote it among the staff, just as the Pain Management Center has. She also encourages staff to think about their unit’s unique barriers to proper hand hygiene and bring them to the attention of the committee so that together the problem can be addressed.
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