Mount Sinai’s clean hands mean safer care

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Hospital-acquired infections affect hundreds of millions of patients worldwide every year. Most of these infections are preventable and hand hygiene is the best way to stop the spread of bacteria.

The Infection Control Department at Mount Sinai Hospital knows just how important hand hygiene is to protect staff and patients from bacteria. That’s why in November 2007, Mount Sinai conducted a survey of staff perceptions about the importance of hand hygiene.

“The survey confirms that Mount Sinai staff members believe that clean care is safer patient care and it all starts with proper hand hygiene,” says Christine Moore, Infection Control Practitioner at Mount Sinai and key advocate for hand hygiene. “We also identified that the availability of alcohol-based hand rub and formal hand hygiene training are two areas that need to be improved at Mount Sinai.”

The survey also showed that approximately 16 per cent of Mount Sinai staff feel that maintaining good hand hygiene takes a significant amount of time if alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR) is not within arms reach. For a hospital environment, ABHR is recommended because it most effectively kills germs. As part of the program for facilitating hand hygiene, the Infection Control team at Mount Sinai has introduced new hand-rub containers to make ABHR more accessible.

“In the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, we are particularly aware of how important it is to wash our hands and to educate others about hand hygiene,” says Trisha Warren, a Registered Nurse at Mount Sinai’s NICU. “Having proper supplies such as alcohol-based hand sanitizers readily available at the bedside and corridors are great ways to facilitate and encourage effective hand hygiene.”

When it comes to hand hygiene, the survey shows that Mount Sinai staff feel they are doing a better job than they actually are. In fact, staff believe that 77 per cent of the time they wash their hands before contacting patients, while the 2008 Mount Sinai audit shows a 48 per cent compliance rate. That’s why the Infection Control team has made it a priority to provide the hospital’s staff with annual hand-hygiene training.

“Staff should be aware there are different types of bacteria in a patient environment, in the hospital and outside of the hospital,” Moore says. “It is important that bacteria from a phone in the nurses’ station, for example, are not transferred by a staff member to a patient room.”

Moore says that if people could see the germs on their hands, they would wash them more often. As part of the hand-hygiene training, Moore uses the Glo Germ tool to give staff a visual of the amount of bacteria on their hands before washing with alcohol hand rub.

“We are working on improving the gaps the hand-hygiene survey identified,” says Moore. “We continue to work at stopping the spread of infections and good hand hygiene is our top priority.”