Controlling the spread of germs in a healthcare facility is crucial. In Australia, approximately 200,000 patients are affected by a healthcare associated infection each year. These preventable infections increase the complexity of treatment, prolong hospital stays, and cost the Australian healthcare system billions of dollars every year. Hand hygiene is scientifically proven as one of the most important methods of effectively preventing and controlling infection. It refers to all actions of hand cleansing, including washing, sanitising, and moisturising.

5 Moments of Hand Hygiene

The World Health Organisation developed a model to decrease the risk of transmission of microorganisms between worker, patient, and the environment. It states 5 moments when healthcare staff should be using hand hygiene procedures:
  • Before touching a patient
  • Before a procedure
  • After a procedure or body fluid exposure risk
  • After touching a patient
  • After touching a patient’s surroundings
Of course, there are more instances in which hand hygiene should be observed, such as after toileting, and before and after eating. Every healthcare staff member should be educated about when they’re required to use hand hygiene practices.

Hand Washing

Thorough hand washing is one way to reduce microbes and limit hospital acquired infections. To ensure hand washing is thorough, follow these steps:
  • Wet hands with water and apply enough soap to cover all surfaces of the hands when rubbed.
  • Rub hands palm to palm, then rub palm of left hand over back of right hand and vice versa.
  • Interlace fingers and rub palm to palm, then interlace fingers and rub palm of left hand over back of right hand and vice versa. Focus rubbing on fingernails and fingertips. 
  • Rinse thoroughly with water.
  • Dry with disposable paper towel or single use cloth.
Always wash hands with water and soap if hands are visibly soiled or feeling sticky. To avoid germs from the tap, turn off the tap using paper towel if a hands-free option is not available. Ensure to properly dry hands after washing them. If hands are left wet, it can cause skin to become damaged, leading to increased bacteria, raising the risk of transmission within the healthcare environment.

Hand Sanitising

Hand sanitising can be done in between hand washes, and only when hands are visibly clean. To ensure hands are sanitised properly, follow these steps:
  • Remove all jewellery and cover abrasions.
  • Apply enough hand sanitiser to cover all surfaces of the hands when rubbed.
  • Dip fingertips and fingernails into sanitiser until they’re covered.
  • Rub over all hand surfaces, focusing on thumbs and webbing, until dry.
Bacteria that staff aren’t even aware of can be present for their next 20 touches. This can transmit it to patients, frequently touched surfaces, reusable medical devices, and a staff member’s own skin. Diligent hand sanitising helps to prevent harmful bacteria on hands.

Hand Moisturising

Damaged skin can cause a risk of infection to oneself and others. Hand moisturising provides a simple solution. If used 3 times a shift, it can substantially protect hands against dryness. For best results:
  • Dispense enough moisturiser to cover the surface of the hands.
  • Rub in to all hand surfaces until moisturiser is absorbed.

Choosing Products

Hand hygiene products in the healthcare environment will encourage staff and patients to use them. But how do you choose what to use? Consider:
  • Type of hand routine required
  • Location of product
  • Compatibility of agents used to clean, wash, and condition hands
  • Need for emollients or nourishers
  • Safety issues
When deciding on hand hygiene products to implement, it is best to use compatible products, such as products from a range by a single manufacturer. SSS Australia provides products that meet all your hand hygiene needs; view some of our range below.

For more information, click here to preview the hand hygiene educational video by Whiteley Corporation