Thorough hand washing is the single most effective deterrent to the spread of infection in healthcare settings. Every medical professional is trained in how to do it, but over time, people get lax. Take a moment to check your process.
The CDC recommends a five-step technique: Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse, Dry.
But there’s more to it than that, because it is so easy to be contaminated by a multitude of bacteria and viruses. Make sure to follow these guidelines:
- Use a sink that drains — no basin or standing water.
- Use soap.
- Rub hands together under running water for a minimum of 30 seconds.
- Remove rings before washing and keep nails short.
- Do not rinse with hot water.
- Use paper towels or air dryer rather than a cloth towel to dry.
- Turn off faucet using towel (do not touch it with your hands).
When is hand washing necessary?
- After using the toilet.
- Before and after patient contact.
- Before and after any antiseptic task.
- After suspected body fluid contact.
- After leaving a patient room even if there was no patient contact.
- Before and after consuming food.
What kind of soap?
Detergent soap is indicated for most situations, including exposure to spore-forming pathogens such as Clostridium difficile.
When hands are not visibly soiled, an alcohol-based rub should be used to decontaminate hands. Do not rinse after using a rub.
Antimicrobial scrubs (such as chlorhexidine, iodine and iodophors, chloroxylenol [PCMX], and triclosan) designed to kill and remove transient microorganisms and reduce resident flora are not recommended for routine hand-washing in healthcare, but should be used in all presurgical settings.
- The use of gloves is not indicated for direct and indirect patient contact where exposure to body fluids is not a potential risk.
- Gloves are indicated in all surgical procedures and for situations where exposure to body fluids is possible.
- Routine hand washing with warm water and soap should be performed first before putting on gloves.
- Gloves should be discarded in an appropriate receptacle immediately after use.
- Wash hands with warm water and soap following removal of gloves (as contamination of the skin is possible when removing them).
Check this WHO hand hygiene brochure to make sure you are doing it all correctly.
Last updated on 9/22/19.