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Which health care facility workers wash their hands most often? Study explores

January 23, 2019

St. Paul, MN — Nurses and non-clinical personnel such as environmental and food services staff wash their hands more frequently than other health care workers, according to recent research from Ecolab – a manufacturer of water, hygiene, and energy technologies and services.

For six months, researchers electronically monitored the use of alcohol-based hand rub among 3,927 health care workers at five medical facilities while calculating the workers’ total hand hygiene product use and hours on the job.

Findings showed that use rates among nurses and non-clinical personnel rated in the 95th percentile for all workers. These employees applied hand rub an average of 9.1 times per hour while washing their hands an average of 2.1 times an hour. The average use rates for all workers in these categories was 3.6 and 0.7, respectively. The researchers found that hand hygiene compliance rates exceeded 85 percent in each facility studied.

“Having a confident understanding of current hand hygiene practices has implications for both patients and health care workers,” the study concludes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that “practicing hand hygiene is a simple, yet effective, way to prevent infections.” About 1 in 25 hospital patients experience a health care-related infection daily, CDC states, while noting that health care providers, on average, clean their hands less than half as frequently as they should.

CDC recommends that health care workers clean their hands:

  • Before eating.
  • Before and after direct contact with a patient’s intact skin.
  • After contact with blood, body fluids or excretions, mucous membrane, non-intact skin, or wound dressings.
  • After contact with inanimate objects (e.g., medical equipment) in the patient’s immediate vicinity.
  • If hands will be moving from a contaminated-body site to a clean-body site during patient care.
  • After glove removal.
  • After restroom use.

The study was published in the American Journal of Infection Control.