One of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs is also the one we learn first in our lives. Handwashing is as powerful as it is simple - especially in healthcare.
Thousands of patients are seen, diagnosed, operated on and cared for at hospitals every day. It’s an environment focused on health. However, the very place we go to be cured of ailments could very well make us sick.
Out of everyone who receives hospital care around the world, between 5-15% get infections due to poor hand hygiene practice by healthcare staff. In times of global epidemics, like the coronavirus, the risk is even greater.
The importance of hand hygiene in healthcare is promoted every October 15th on Global Handwashing Day. But the lessons to be learned are too important to relegate to just one day.
Fortunately, where infection is the risk, education is the cure. Hospital internal communications can promote the correct behaviors for healthcare staff to protect themselves, their colleagues and their patients.
How to promote hand hygiene in hospitals
1. Foster correct practices
Use high-frequency campaign-style messaging to drive positive behavioral change. The repetition and high visibility of tools such as computer screensavers are effective at promoting important topics, such as the need for wearing sanitary gloves during all patient interactions.
2. Train for triumph
It may feel like teaching something obvious, but don’t overlook the value in training staff of the correct way to wash hands for maximum cleanliness. Ensuring all staff attend these sessions not only adheres to compliance requirements, but is likely to result in higher patient appreciation reflected in HCAHPS scores.
3. Bring the issue to life
Make staff sit up and take notice by including real-world facts, like this one: Proper hand hygiene can reduce healthcare-associated infections by 40%. Use these and others in multi-format notifications for maximum employee awareness.
4. Target messaging for relevancy
Some hospital visitors are more at risk than others, and require more specialized attention. Pregnant women, young children, severely sick people and the elderly all have lower natural immunity to germs. Hospital staff attending to these types of patients must take extra care. Use the targeting capabilities of internal communication tools to send notifications to these staff, relevant to their specific patients.
5. Reminders maintain focus
Hospitals are highly-pressured places where staff are constantly busy attending to patient needs. It’s only natural that in their daily work they may sometimes neglect certain tasks. But even the most seemingly-trivial of tasks, like correct handwashing practice, can be critical. Don’t be afraid of pester-power in reminding staff of these tasks, as a UK healthcare provider has recently done, to significant operational improvements.
6. Solicit staff suggestions
Healthcare staff are intimately aware of the services and facilities of their organization through their daily dealings with patients. If any of the handwashing facilities aren’t up to scratch, they will be the first to know. Circulate a short survey asking their comments or suggestions for improving facilities.
To help promote Global Handwashing Day, the graphic below and lots more are available at the official Global Handwashing website.
This Global Handwashing Day, try the tips above, get staff involved, and together we’ll help keep everyone healthier – and wash our hands of illness.