UAB Hospital is working to increase awareness among staff, patients and families members of the role of clean hands in reducing hospital-associated infections.
Mariann Schmitz, infection control practitioner and team leader for Partners in Your Care (PIYC), says the campaign will help maintain UAB Hospital standards of excellence.
"Hand hygiene is consistent with our core value of doing the right thing," Schmitz says. "No staff member wants to be infected because we haven't washed our hands, and certainly no one wants to pass on an infection to patients, visitors or other staff."
Noncompliance with hand hygiene is a main source of hospital-associated infections, and hospital-associated infections with resistant organisms are on the rise nationwide, Schmitz says. PIYC is a peer-reviewed, evidence-based program endorsed by The Joint Commission, that, when instituted at other institutions, has significantly improved compliance with hand-hygiene protocols.
Beginning with basics
At UAB, the admitting department is distributing literature to patients encouraging them to ask all health-care personnel if they have cleaned their hands before touching them.
"Patients should ask, 'Have you cleaned your hands?' every time a staff member cares for them," Schmitz says. "The correct response is either 'Yes, I have' or 'No, thanks for reminding me.'"
"Proper hand hygiene is the single-most important step we can take to reduce hospital-associated infections," Schmitz says. "Reducing those infections saves money, and, more important, reduces patient suffering, morbidity and mortality."
Studies show physicians, nurses and other health-care workers do not always clean their hands properly. Partners in Your Care research also shows:
• Health-care workers hands are contaminated 23 percent of the time, even when using gloves
• Germs are most often transmitted from patient to patient via the contaminated hands of health-care workers
• 42 percent of nurses contaminate their gloves with difficult-to-treat staph germs without direct patient contact, but touching surfaces near the patient
• Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are more effective than washing with soap and water, better for the skin and take less time.
There are three main reason health-care workers don't clean their hands properly: It bothers their skin; they don't think they have to if they wear gloves; they forget.
But research shows when health-care workers comply with hand-hygiene protocols it reduces hospital-associated infections by one third.
New hygiene products that are effective and mild to the skin have been installed in UAB Hospital to encourage proper hand hygiene, but success of PIYC depends equally on compliance levels.
Outcomes data will be collected quarterly and benchmarked against comparable units in other PIYC participating hospitals.
"In addition, we soon will begin using direct observation to determine rates of compliance with hand hygiene after patient care, by nursing unit and by job classification," adds Alan M. Stamm, M.D., hospital infection control officer. "There again will be opportunities for benchmarking."
A PowerPoint presentation is available online at https://scr.hs.uab.edu. Select Health System, then References, then Infection Control, then PIYC: UAB's New Hand Hygiene Improvement Program.