Sunday, September 03, 2006

Watch for proper hand hygiene
(win a free lunch)

The seemingly complicated problem of infection rates in healthcare facilities has a simple solution: Wash your hands, and do it often.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in 20 patients contracts an infection in U.S. hospitals each year, and approximately 90,000 people die from those infections.

[Click here to go to the CDC's online recources for hand hygiene in hospitals: A fact sheet, posters, and best practices guidelines.]

"Many of these infections would not occur if hand hygiene protocols were followed," said Peter Shea, MD, Medical Director at Backus Hospital. "For the sake of our patients, we must adhere to these guidelines at all times."

Backus staff members are required to wash their hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer between every patient contact. Purell, a hand-sanitizing gel, is available in every room and in the hallways, which helps eliminate the obstacle of time. The CDC says that during an eight-hour shift, approximately one hour of a CCU nurse's time can be saved using an alcohol-based rub.

Mary Bylone, RN, Assistant Vice President of Patient Care Services and Patient Safety Officer, said that if your hands are visibly soiled, use the traditional soap and water. Otherwise, the hand sanitizing gel is very appropriate.

"Hand Hygiene is such a core component of patient care that often the importance is undervalued," said Karen Long, RN, Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer. "Constant vigilance and reminders among staff themselves is encouraged to keep this simple safety measure in the forefront of our daily routine."

    Other hand hygiene tips from the CDC:

  • Do not wear artificial fingernails or extenders when having direct contact with patients at high risk.
  • Keep natural nail tips less than 1/4-inch long.
  • Wear gloves when contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials, mucous membranes and non intact skin could occur.
  • Remove gloves after caring for a patient. Do not wear the same pair of gloves for the care of more than one patient, and do not wash gloves between uses with different patients.
  • Change gloves during patient care if moving from a contaminated body site to a clean body site.
  • The use of gloves does not eliminate the need for hand hygiene, and the use of hand hygiene does not eliminate the need for gloves, which should be changed after each patient contact.

Other ways Backus seeks to reduce hospital-related infections include special clothes and sanitizing procedures in the operating room; practicing respiratory etiquette; yearly training of staff on hand hygiene guidelines; education of staff on best practices to reduce ventilator-associated pneumonia; making flu shots available for staff; and avoiding delays in administering antibiotics after surgery.

Reducing the number of healthcare-related infections is one of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations' National Patient Safety Goals.

Free lunch?

I will cover the cost of a meal in the Backus Cafeteria for anyone who catches me not washing my hands when I should."
-- Mary Bylone, Assistant Vice President, Patient Care Services, and Patient Safety Officer.

Anyone with questions about the National Patient Safety Goals, or suggestions to help Backus improve patient safety, can call Ms. Bylone at 860-889-8331 ext. 2771 or Joe Hughes, Director of Quality Improvement, at 860-889-8331 ext. 2345.

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