Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How important are clean hands in the overall patient safety agenda?
A: Hand hygiene contributes significantly to keeping patients safe. It is a simple, low-cost action to prevent the spread of many of the germs that cause healthcare-associated infections. While hand hygiene is not the only measure to counter healthcare-associated infections, it can dramatically enhance patient safety. Improving the hand hygiene of healthcare staff is one of the most effective ways of preventing and reducing the spread of healthcare associated infections.
The selection of hand hygiene as the first pillar to promote the Global Patient Safety Challenge of the WHO World Alliance for Patient Safety signifies its importance in the patient safety agenda.
Q: What role do patients and visitors play in the spread of infection?
A: Patients can transfer pathogens from one site on their body to another. If patients are having contact with their wound or the insertion site of a device (e.g. IV catheter), hand hygiene is essential.
In the same way, visitors having contact with the patient should perform hand hygiene. In instances where visitors are likely to have physical contact with more than one patient, then hand hygiene should be performed before and after touching a patient, and after contact with body fluids (refer to the 5 Moments for further information).
Q: How do I use Alcohol Based Hand Rub (ABHR)?
A: Push the pump to get the metered amount, rub over all surfaces of your hands until evaporated. There is no need to wash your hands after use, this is a waterless system. If your hands are visibly soiled we recommend you wash them with soap and water.
Q: What if my hands are clean?
A: Even when our hands look clean many germs may be still present which could transmit disease or other infections. ABHR is effective against many types of bacteria and viruses, which are invisible to our eyes. To offer the best protection to everyone we recommend that you use the ABHR regularly.
Q: Is HHA saying that conventional handwashing at the sink is no longer important?
A: Not at all. There will always be a place for ‘conventional’ hand washing. Hands should always be cleaned with soap and water when they are visibly soiled.
Evidence suggests that full compliance with hand hygiene using only soap and water is unachieveable due to lack of time, accessibility to sinks, skin irritation and dryness. ABHR provides a quick and effective way for staff to clean their hands when they are with their patient. It also means that the patients can see the healthcare workers clean their hands, which is important for patient confidence.
Q: What is a healthcare-associated infection?
A: Healthcare-associated infections are infections that patients acquire during the course of receiving treatment for other conditions within a health care setting
Q: Who is at risk of healthcare-associated infections?
A: Anyone who is a patient in a hospital is at risk of a health care-associated infection. However, some patients are more vulnerable than others such as:
- the very young or very old
- those with underlying medical conditions eg. diabetes
- those who have a weak or compromised immune system such as those who are receiving chemotherapy
Q: What are the most common types of healthcare-associated infections?
A: The most common health care associated infections are urinary tract infections, surgical site infections, pneumonia, and bloodstream infections.