Handwashing Key to Prevent Infections
Do you know the germs that live on your hands? Streptococcus, streptococci and bacteroides are some common ones. The names may not sound familiar, but the illnesses they spread sure are: pneumonia, sore throats, ear infections. In fact, hands carry dozens of germs that also cause common colds, flu, stomach viruses and various life-threatening illnesses.
The most effective and proven way to prevent these infections is simply handwashing. Studies estimate that over one-third of hospital-acquired infections are preventable and that when staff hand hygiene improves infection rates go down.
But a quick five second rinse under water won’t do. Proper handwashing is important, particularly in a healthcare setting, and must follow specific steps: wet hands, soap well, rub for 15 – 20 seconds, rinse, dry, turn off faucet with towel.
HHC facilities have long emphasized the importance of excellent hand hygiene. During a recent observation visit by a professional accreditation organization, staff on the Kings County Hospital intensive care unit were praised for their 100% compliance with hand hygiene recommendations.
"It was impressive to see our staff consistently decontaminate their hands both before and after patient treatment," said Dr. Kathie Rones, Kings County Medical Director. "Our employees are very energized around this issue – there's even a little healthy competition over which team is best at handwashing and best at infection control."
HHC will be stepping up its handwashing education efforts for employees and patients with a week-long awareness campaign in December with a fitting slogan: "Prevent Infections. Good Health is in Your Hands." Employees will receive daily hand hygiene facts by email. Patients and their family will learn about the importance of handwashing during follow-up care at home. And Handwashing Ambassadors at each facility will invite everyone to take a handwashing IQ test for a chance to win a prize.
The handwashing campaign is part of HHC's ongoing patient safety priority initiative which aims to establish New York's public hospitals as among the safest hospitals in the nation by the end of the decade.