Handwashing Awareness: The Importance of Handwashing in Healthcare Settings

by Lawton Brothers | Dec 10, 2019

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 1.7 million hospital patients get healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs); 99,000 of those die due to HCAIs. What could your healthcare facility and its employees be doing to decrease the risk of contaminating patients? The most straightforward answer we can give you is ... washing their hands. Now, with that being said, we can’t guarantee that no one will contract an HCAI; however, it has been proven that when staff consistently practice handwashing, the risk of HCAIs is significantly reduced. 

At Lawton Brothers, we understand that something as simple as washing your hands can be easily overlooked. We are taking this opportunity during National Handwashing Awareness Week to highlight the importance of handwashing in healthcare settings. 

HEALTHCARE-ASSOCIATED INFECTIONS (HCAIs) 

HCAIs are infections a patient can develop during their stay in the hospital. Did you know that the length of a patient who contracts HCAI increases by 17.6 days and that 9.4 percent of in-patient costs incur because of HCAIs? What does this mean for your healthcare facility? Well, it can cost up to $35 billion per year. 

PREVENTING THE SPREAD OF HEALTHCARE-ASSOCIATED INFECTIONS 

One of the simplest but most effective ways to decrease the chances of a patient getting an HCAI is to practice proper hand hygiene. Healthcare providers should wash their hands multiple times per day, but let’s be more specific. Here is when a doctor, nurse or another member of your healthcare staff should be washing their hands: 

●       Before coming in contact with a patient

●       After coming in contact with a foreign substance like blood, body fluids or other contaminated surfaces

●       Before and after using gloves

 Why is there an aversion to handwashing? 

According to research from the CDC, multiple factors can cause your healthcare workers to not wash their hands, including: 

●       Irritation and dryness in the skin after washing hands

●       Sinks are not conveniently located or there are not enough sinks

●       Lack of soap and paper towels

●       Hand washing interferes with relationship building with patients

●       The belief that wearing gloves is all one needs to do

●       Lack of education or knowledge of handwashing protocols

●       Forgetting to wash the hands

●       Leadership isn’t doing it

●       Lack of information regarding handwashing and HCAI rates 

As a janitorial supply company, a few of these reasons from the CDC stick out to us. How can your healthcare team overcome some of the obstacles outlined above? 

Lack of soap and paper towels: As a janitorial supply company, this statement stands out clearly to us. This statement implies that it takes more than just your healthcare team; it also takes your maintenance team. 

Clear communication between your healthcare staff and your maintenance team is needed so that supplies are always readily stocked and available to your medical team.  If your maintenance team is running out of supplies, then it is your facility manager’s duty to find a janitorial supply company that can keep up with order numbers. 

Irritation and dryness in the skin after washing hands:  According to the CDC, in certain surveys, approximately 25% of nurses reported symptoms of dermatitis and 85% reported skin problems. There are many types of substances one could use for hand hygiene, including: 

●       Non-Antimicrobial Soap

●       Alcohol-Based Hand Antiseptics

●       Chlorhexidine Gluconate

●       Chloroxylenol

●       Hexachlorophene

●       Iodine and Iodophors

●       Quaternary Ammonium Compounds

●       Triclosan 

It is important to consider all of your options and find the substance/soap that will cause your healthcare team the least amount of irritation on their skin. What should you factor in when choosing hygiene products like soap? According to the CDC, there are many factors you should think about when selecting products for your healthcare facility, including: 

●       How efficient is the product against pathogens?

●       Does the healthcare staff accept the hand products?

●       Do you need automated hand soap dispensers?

●       How does my budget for hand hygiene products compare to my expenses for hospital costs related costs due to HCAIs? According to the CDC, just four or five HCAIs contracted may equal the number of some healthcare facilities’ budgets for hand hygiene products. (Yikes!) 

At Lawton Brothers, our goal is to help your healthcare facility run as smoothly as possible. From helping you pick out which hand hygiene product would fit your facility best to helping you stay within budget, we are here for you. To talk with a representative about your facility and its needs, give us a call at 800-432-0813.

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