Hand it to them: One unit’s tips on improving hand hygiene

July 27, 2016  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources,
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From left, Sue Wintermeyer-Pingel, Chelsea Harding and Julie Murray. The group leads hand hygiene compliance efforts in 8E/7W at Mott Children’s Hospital.

In May 2015, the nursing leadership team and staff in 8E/7W of Mott Children’s Hospital wanted to find a way to get everyone on board with hand hygiene compliance. Their fun solution? A video.

The video, which used Glo-germ gel in place of real germs, showed not only a typical day for a Mott nurse, but also demonstrated the sheer amount of germs a health care specialist comes into contact with through the course of his or her work.

“It was a real eye-opener,” said Julie Murray, clinical nursing supervisor for 8E, which serves as an adult hematology-oncology/surgical unit. “Staff liked it because it was funny, but they also said ‘Oh my gosh, we need to think about all the places germs can be found.’”

Murray and other leaders stress hand hygiene whenever possible. Staff meetings and nurse-to-nurse huddles frequently include information about the importance of washing hands. The campaign has helped bolster the unit’s hand-hygiene compliance numbers.

“We create a culture where hand hygiene is easy to talk about,” Murray said.

How did they go about doing that? The group focused on four key areas:

  • Give both positive and constructive feedback: It’s easy to talk to people when they are doing something wrong. But Murray said it’s more important to do it when they are doing something right. “When there was a positive audit in our unit, I would stress that. I would tell people they’re doing a great job.”
  • Foster a safe environment for open communication: The units were constantly encouraged to talk about hand hygiene and colleagues were asked to remind their coworkers if they saw them forget to wash. “By having our own staff watch each other, it made it more personal,” said Sue Wintermeyer-Pingel, a clinical nurse specialist. “And the feedback came to the nurses in real-time, so it was easier to learn from mistakes.”
  • Take a collaborative approach: The nursing staff teamed up with members of infection prevention, housekeeping and other groups to ensure that all UMHS staff members were practicing safe hand hygiene. They also asked for, and received, ample support from nursing administration.
  • Have fun! As the video proved, creative campaigns to encourage hand washing can be engaging. From stop signs outside every room to a hand hygiene bulletin board in the hallway, 8E/7W makes it clear that fun visual cues work. “We needed to think of different ways to reach people,” said Chelsea Harding, the educational nurse coordinator in the units. “It definitely increased our compliance.”

Could any of these devices be effective in your unit? If you’d like more information about hand hygiene or to find out how you can help encourage compliance across the health system, check out the infection prevention website.