Proper hand hygiene creates a safer environment for residents


When we serve those who need a helping hand, we have to be especially careful to make sure our caring hands are always safe. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, long-term care facilities have an estimated one to three million cases of serious infections every year. Those infections are a major cause of hospitalizations and resident deaths. The most basic step in helping to stop the spread of germs that could endanger residents’ lives is consistent practice of proper hand hygiene.

 For example, a study of 26 nursing homes conducted between 2014 and 2015 found that when staff, residents and visitors consistently followed proper hand hygiene it resulted in fewer deaths. The study used a multifaceted approach to tackle improving hand hygiene in half of the facilities while the other 13 were in the control group. The changes implemented included increasing access to hand gel by distributing pocket-sized containers, adding new gel dispensers, more displays of hand hygiene information, and staff education tools. This study is proof that making a commitment to basic hygiene can make a world of difference for infection control.

When should caregivers practice hand hygiene?

Part of proper hand hygiene is knowing when to wash your hands and sticking to the practice. Caregivers should wash their hands when they report for duty and when they complete their shift. During their shift, federal guidance on hand hygiene recommends that they wash their hands after:

·         Performing invasive procedures

·         Handling medications

·         Holding contaminated items such as soiled linens and dressings

·         Contact with blood and body fluid, secretions, excretions, mucous membranes, etc.

·         Touching a resident’s skin

·         Assisting with/providing personal care

·         Eating

·         Using the restroom

·         Sneezing, coughing, blowing or wiping nose

·         Removing gloves or aprons

In addition to knowing when to wash your hands, it is highly important to practice correct hand hygiene techniques. The use of gloves should never be substituted for basic hand washing using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand gel. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services provided education on hand hygiene and thoroughly outlined useful techniques for ensuring your hands are clean and safe.

Soap and water hand hygiene technique:

·         Thoroughly wet hands with water at sink.

·         Apply enough soap to cover all hand surfaces.

·         Rub hands together palm to palm vigorously.

·         Rub right palm over the left dorsum (back of the hand) with interlaced fingers and vice versa.

·         Rub palm to palm with interlaced fingers.

·         Rub the backs of fingers with cupped palms

·         Rub each thumb with a circular motion.

·         Using fingers, rub each palm with a circular and back and forth motion.

·         Rinse hands.

·         Dry thoroughly with a single-use towel.

·         Use towel to turn off the faucet.

 

Alcohol-based hand gel hand hygiene technique:

·         If the hands are not visibly dirty, use of an alcohol-based hand gel is appropriate.

·         Apply a palmful of product to palm of one hand and cover all surfaces.

·         Rub hands palm to palm.

·         Rub right palm over the left dorsum (back of the hand)  with interlaced fingers and vice versa.

·         Rub palm to palm with interlaced fingers.

·         Rub the backs of fingers with cupped palms.

·         Rub each thumb with a circular motion.

·         Using fingers, rub each palm with a circular and back and forth motion.

·         Once the hands are dry, they are clean.


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