We’ve all heard – and as a healthcare professional, you’ve likely told your patients – that it’s best to drink eight glasses of water per day for optimum hydration and health. But is there a rule of thumb for doctors, nurses, and medical staff to ensure proper hand hygiene during a shift? Especially during cold and flu season?
Frequent hand cleaning is one of the essential actions to prevent the spread of infections and prevent loss of health or even death. Practicing proper hand hygiene is a simple yet effective way to prevent illnesses. Through regular hand cleaning, doctors, nurses, and clinical support, staff can alleviate the spread of germs, including those that are resistant to antibiotics.
Studies have shown that getting health care professionals to wash their hands before and after dealing with patients consistently could potentially reduce the nation’s hospital health care bill by billions of dollars. Yet, it’s been documented that healthcare providers clean their hands less than half as often as they should – with compliance rates for hand washing in American hospitals hovering at around 40%. Because handwashing offers great rewards for preventing illness, healthcare professionals need to adopt and maintain this healthy habit.
Rules for Practicing Proper Hand Hygiene
What are the rules for proper handwashing for medical professionals? The World Health Organization’s 5 Stages for Hand Hygiene states that a healthcare provider should wash their hands:
- Before touching a patient
- Before clean/aseptic procedures
- After body fluid exposure/risk
- After touching a patient
- After touching patient surroundings
Before Washing Hands
Because germs can sit under watches, jewelry, and nail polish, these items should be removed to increase the effectiveness of handwashing. Bacteria and dirt can sit under the end of a long nail, so it’s important to have short nails as a medical practitioner – especially in ophthalmology, where fingers are often very close to the patient’s eye.
How to Wash your Hands
When using soap and water, follow these steps:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water — either warm or cold
- Apply soap and lather well
- Rub hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Remember to scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails
- Rinse well
- Dry your hands with a clean towel or air-dry them
Using an Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer
One of the easiest methods for ensuring good hand hygiene is using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (handrub). In most cases, hand sanitizer is as good or more effective than washing hands with soap and water. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer doesn’t require water but should contain at least 60% alcohol. Here’s how to use it:
- Apply the gel product to the palm of one hand. Check the label to find out the appropriate amount
- Rub your hands together
- Rub the gel over all the surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry
A Simple Way to Stay Healthy
Hand hygiene is considered a primary measure for reducing the transmission of infection among patients, doctors, nurses, and medical personnel. And though it’s impossible to keep hands 100% germ-free, washing them frequently can help limit the transfer of bacteria, viruses, and other microbes.
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