A survey on handwashing practices and opinions of healthcare workers

A D Harris, M H Samore, R Nafziger, K DiRosario, M C Roghmann, Y Carmeli
Journal of Hospital Infection 2000, 45 (4): 318-21
Studies have consistently demonstrated rates of handwashing compliance are less than 50%. The objective of this study was to gain the following information about handwashing: self-reported compliance; attitudes towards handwashing in different patient settings; and attitudes towards interventions aimed at increasing compliance. A 74-question survey was administered to healthcare workers in two tertiary care hospitals. One hundred and ninety nine healthcare workers completed the survey and 89% reported that handwashing is an important means of preventing infection. Sixty-four percent believed that they washed their hands as often as their peers and 2% believed that they washed less often than their peers. Patients with diarrhoea, AIDS or patients on antibiotics led to increased handwashing. Relative to potential interventions, 76% reported that rewards for handwashing would have no effect, 73% reported that punishment would have no effect and 80% reported that easy access to sinks and availability of washing facilities would lead to increased compliance. This survey suggests that healthcare workers understand the importance of handwashing, but tend to overestimate their own compliance. Healthcare workers are not in favour of interventions involving rewards and punishments, but are more attracted to interventions that make handwashing easier.

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