Amasht Hygiene E-news | August 2012
Hand washing: A simple, effective safety solution
Efficient hand washing is probably the least expensive and certainly one of the most effective patient safety interventions to prevent hospital-acquired infections. Yet, hand-washing results across hospitals and other healthcare organizations are routinely dismal.
A few years ago, at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, Wisc., compliance of staff and physicians using accepted hand-washing protocol before and after patient contact was only 76 percent, ranking them near the bottom of all hospitals in their SSM Health Care system. This distressed everyone, as these numbers were significantly out of line with their other patient safety indicators. So SSM Health Care culture was used to improve. After researching they looked at successful organizations in hand washing, not just in SSM Health Care but outside.
All departments at St. Mary’s Hospital designated hand-washing champions who met monthly at first, and less often as the process progressed. Each department established hand-washing goals aligned with their organizational goals. Monthly progress was recorded and displayed on departmental goal posters. Lastly, each employee was required to have a personal hand-washing goal documented on his/her Passport, the personalized goals tool they provide to each staff member. The biggest barrier they faced was their “Midwestern politeness,” where they were reluctant to correct each other if they observed less-than-optimal hand washing, particularly true with physicians. This made people submit names of those who needed reminders; each would then receive a letter signed by authorities.
They went from 76 percent compliance to more than 90 percent for the last twelve months, and as high as 97 percent for two months. To celebrate their successes and hard work each of their department champions were provided with logowear embroidered with “St. Mary's Hand Hygiene Champion.” Hand washing-it’s a simple but important act. Yet it has dramatically contributed them fulfill their commitment of providing a safe environment.
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