Hand Hygiene: Did You Know?

Submitted by Jessicah Collins, MD, Augusta Health Diabetes and Endocrinology Clinic

Let’s be frank. I find the subject of hand hygiene to be taboo, almost insulting. We are skilled physicians who stop bleeding, cure cancer, battle infection, save lives, comfort suffering, heal wounded bodies and souls. Did you know that we have a minimum of 20,000 hours of clinical training by the end of residency? My 5-year-old knows to wash her hands. Of course, we know that we must wash our hands. But here is information that I learned from the hand hygiene committee that I did not know, and I ask, “Did you know?”

Did you know that we are observed?

At Augusta Health, every hospital floor and clinic has trained observers. The observers record whether the healthcare provider washed hands either with soap or hand sanitizer both before and after contact with a patient. They are required to monitor for 30 seconds after healthcare providers enter and exit the room to ensure accuracy. While in the hospital and clinics, we are being watched, and observers, often nurses, record data based on our behaviors. We know that we should wash our hands, but we are accountable to it as well.

Did you know that we can do better?

The CDC reports that healthcare providers wash their hands 50% less than they should.

At Augusta Health, we, physicians, are not doing much better. In the first quarter, we washed our hands in the hospital 56% of the time. We should be washing our hands almost twice as frequently as we are. It’s surprising that something so simple and effective is being done poorly.

Did you know that hand hygiene really does save lives?

Every day, 1 in 25 hospitalized patients contracts a healthcare associated illness. Healthcare associated illness is most commonly spread through healthcare workers’ hands; the most effective way to decrease healthcare associated illness is hand washing. Hospital acquired infections kill 100,000 patients annually. Up to 70% of these infections and subsequent deaths could have been prevented by proper hand hygiene.

Also, remember that hand washing not only keeps patients healthier, but it prevents spread of disease to us, our families and community.

Did you know that you can “Soap Up!” and help keep our patients healthier?

Augusta Health has started a “Soap Up!” campaign to remind us to be part of the solution. Simply, “Soap Up!”

Wash or apply hand sanitizer:

  • Before and after direct contact with a patient.
  • After contacting bodily fluids or wounds.
  • Before eating and when handling food.
  • After using the restroom.
  • After removing gloves.
  • After touching medical equipment in the patient’s area.