Hand hygiene practices in a neonatal intensive care unit: a multimodal intervention and impact on nosocomial infection

Barbara C C Lam, Josephine Lee, Y L Lau
Pediatrics 2004, 114 (5): e565-71

OBJECTIVE: Health care-associated infections persist as a major problem in most neonatal intensive care units. Hand hygiene has been singled out as the most important measure in preventing hospital-acquired infection. However, hand hygiene compliance among health care workers (HCWs) remains low. The objective of this study was to assess the frequency and nature of patient contacts in neonatal intensive care units and observe the compliance and technique of hand hygiene among HCWs before and after the implementation of a multimodal intervention program.

METHODS: The nature and frequency of patient contacts, the hand hygiene compliance, and hand-washing techniques of HCWs were observed unobtrusively to reflect the baseline compliance and to investigate factors for noncompliance. The intervention consisted of problem-based and task-orientated hand hygiene education, enhancement of minimal handling protocol and clustering of nursing care, liberal provision of alcohol-based hand antiseptic, improvement in hand hygiene facilities, ongoing regular hand hygiene audit, and implementation of health care-associated infection surveillance. The observational study was repeated 6 months after the completion of the intervention program, which extended over 1-year period.

RESULTS: Overall hand hygiene compliance increased from 40% to 53% before patient contact and 39% to 59% after patient contact. More marked improvement was observed for high-risk procedures (35%-60%). The average number of patient contacts also decreased from 2.8 to 1.8 per patient per hour. There was improvement in most aspects of hand-washing technique in the postintervention stage. The health care-associated infection rate decreased from 11.3 to 6.2 per 1000 patient-days.

CONCLUSION: A problem-based and task-orientated education program can improve hand hygiene compliance. Enhancement of minimal handling and clustering of nursing procedures reduced the total patient contact episodes, which could help to overcome the major barrier of time constraints. A concurrent decrease in health care-associated infection rate and increase in hand hygiene compliance was observed in this study. The observational study could form part of an ongoing audit to provide regular feedback to HCWs to sustain the compliance.

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