Hand hygiene rates unaffected by installation of dispensers of a rapidly acting hand antiseptic

C A Muto, M G Sistrom, B M Farr
American Journal of Infection Control 2000, 28 (3): 273-6

OBJECTIVE: The objective of the study was to improve health care workers' compliance with hand hygiene after patient contact by use of an alcohol-based hand antiseptic.

DESIGN AND METHODS: Six commercially available alcohol-based hand antiseptics were evaluated. The one most pleasing to the evaluators' hands was selected for the study. Baseline handwashing rates were assessed on 2 medical wards. Alcohol dispensers were mounted by every door on the 2 wards. An educational campaign was conducted with 4 weekly visits to these floors to remind and reinstruct staff about the use of the alcohol dispensers and to address questions. After 2 months handwashing rates were reassessed.

SETTING: The study was set in a university hospital.

RESULTS: The baseline handwashing rate was 60% (76/126). Physicians were most compliant (83%), followed by nurses (60%), technologists (56%), and housekeepers (36%). Two months later overall hand hygiene rates had decreased to 52% (P = .26). Nurses were most compliant (67%), followed by technologists (57%), physicians (29%), and housekeepers (25%). Physician compliance was associated with compliance by attending physicians whose example was usually followed by all other physicians on rounds.

CONCLUSIONS: A brief educational campaign and installation of dispensers containing a rapidly acting hand hygiene product near hospital rooms did not affect hand hygiene compliance. The behavior of attending physicians was predictive of handwashing rates for all others in the attending's retinue. Compliance with handwashing after half of all patient contacts was a result of perfect compliance by some and total noncompliance by others being observed.

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