Handwashing frequencies in an intensive care unit

S Karabey, P Ay, S Derbentli, Y Nakipoglu, F Esen
Journal of Hospital Infection 2002, 50 (1): 36-41
As most nosocomial infections are thought to be transmitted by the hands of healthcare workers, handwashing is considered the single most important intervention to prevent nosocomial infections. However, previous studies have shown that handwashing practices are poor, especially among medical personnel. The objective of this study was to assess the rate of handwashing among intensive care unit (ICU) healthcare personnel, and then to propose realistic suggestions so that hand hygiene' could be performed at an optimal level. To achieve this, each healthcare worker in the ICU of Istanbul Medical Faculty was observed directly, and, a comprehensive microbiological investigation was carried out among personnel and of the inanimate environment. The frequency of handwashing was low; 12.9% among medical personnel. Moreover, there was a widespread contamination in the ICU and 28.1% of the healthcare workers were carriers for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The factors that contributed to low compliance of handwashing protocols were: a low staff to patient ratio, excessive use of gloves and deficiencies in the infra-structure of ICU. In heavy workload conditions, alcoholic handrub solutions for quick hand decontamination can be considered as an alternative to handwashing.

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