5 Tips for Good Hand Hygiene for Healthcare Workers

The Centers for Disease Control emphasizes the importance of hand hygiene in reducing healthcare-associated infections

hand hygieneAccording to the Center for Disease Control, “clean hands are the single most important factor in preventing the spread of pathogens and antibiotic resistance in healthcare settings.”

For this reason, it’s always a good idea to review the recommended hand-washing and hand-rubbing instructions, whether you are a new employee just starting out in the healthcare field or a experienced professional with years in the field.

The following hand hygiene recommendations come from a 2002 issue of the Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report (MMWR) called: Guideline for Hand Hygiene in Health-care Settings.  MMWR 2002;  vol. 51, no. RR-16.

1. What type of cleaner should I use and when?

  • Use soap and water when your hands are visibly dirty, contaminated, or soiled.
  • Use an alcohol-based handrub when your hands are not visibly soiled.

2. When should I wash my hands?

  • Before patient contact
  • Before donning gloves when inserting invasive devices, such as urinary catheters
  • After contact with a patient’s intact skin
  • After contact with body fluids or excretions, non-intact skin, or wound  dressings
  • After removing gloves

3. What is the recommended way to wash my hands with an alcohol-based handrub?

  • Dispense the amount of product that is recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Apply product to palm of one hand and rub hands together, covering all surfaces of hands and fingers, until hands are dry.

4. What is the recommended way to wash my hands with soap and water?

  • First, wet hands and forearms with water.
  • Apply the amount of soap recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Rub hands together for at least 15 seconds, covering all surfaces of the hands, fingers, and forearms.
  • Rinse hands and forearms with water.
  • Dry thoroughly with a disposable towel, and use the towel to turn off the faucet.

5. When should I use gloves?

  • When you have contact with blood or other body fluids, in accordance with Universal Precautions
  • Remove gloves after caring for a patient
  • Do not wear the same pair of gloves for the care of more than one patient
  • Discard gloves safely
  • Do not wash gloves

A note about fingernails:

  • Natural nail tips should be kept to ¼ inch in length
  • Artificial nails should not be worn when having direct contact with high-risk patients (e.g., ICU, OR)

The recommendations on hand hygiene in this article are from: Guideline for Hand Hygiene in Health-care Settings.  MMWR 2002;  vol. 51, no. RR-16.

For more detailed information on hand hygiene, including downloadable PDFs of hand hygiene posters and training tools, visit the CDC’s website at http://www.cdc.gov/handhygiene/.

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