Hand Hygiene Handwashing and Clean Hands Saves Lives

Hand Hygiene Compliance

What Is Hand Hygiene?

Hand hygiene is a concerted effort of washing hands and using either antiseptic handwash or alcohol-based antiseptic to minimize the spread microorganisms to improve patient care.

Steps To Hand Hygiene Compliance

The single most important element of hand hygiene is education. Healthcare professionals by nature want to provide the best patient care whenever possible. It is hard to practice good hand hygiene if you forget or simply do not know. The ownership should be shared by the healthcare facility and clinicians to ensure everyone understands the what, why, and how of hand hygiene.

In addition to practicing proper hand washing, utilization of alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and skin care cream, healthcare workers should take note to adhere to the following:

  • Wear minimal jewelry. Microorganisms are shown to exist in higher concentration on the skin that is contact with jewelry. Removal of jewelry (ie. rings, watches, or bracelets) ensures efficacy of germs.
  • Trim and clean finger nails. On our hands, the highest concentration of pathogens are located underneath our finger nails. For this reason, keeping the finger nails clean and short will help in reducing the number of microorganisms that exist.
  • Do not wear artificial nails. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) both recommend that healthcare workers should not wear artificial nails. Even with proper handwashing, clinicians with artificial nails will likely have a higher level of microorganisms on their fingertips.
  • Take care of hands. Cuts and cracks on the skin are ideal locations for pathogens to reside. In addition, poor skin skin condition can prohibit the practice of good hand hygiene. For instance, applying alcohol-based antiseptic on a cut may cause a stinging sensation.
  • Use of personal protective equipment (PPE). If exam or surgical gloves are used, be sure to follow manufacturer's instructions and dispose after seeing each patient or after each procedure. In healthcare settings, gloves should not be reused as the risk of cross-contamination is high. When visiting patients, be sure to don a new set of exam gloves and dispose before you leave.


Hand Hygiene Compliance References
  • World Alliance for Patient Safety. WHO Guidelines in Hand Hygiene in Health Care (Advanced Draft). Global Patient Safety Challenge 2005-2006: "Clean Care is Safer Care." April 2006.
  • Kampf G. The six golden rules to improve compliance in hand hygiene. Journal of Hospital Infections. 2004;56:3-5.
  • Murphy D, Whiting J. Dispelling the Myths: The True Cost of Healthcare-Associated Infections. An APIC Briefing. February 2007.
  • Watanakunakorn C, Wang C, Hazy J. An observational study of hand washing and infection control practices by healthcare workers. Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. 1998;19:858–60.
  • Pittet D. Compliance with hand disinfection and its impact on hospital-acquired infections. Journal of Hospital Infection. 2001;48(suppl A):S40–S46.