FAQ's - General


Q: Can I wear artificial fingernails when having direct contact with patients?

Q: Should targets be set for hand hygiene compliance? If so, what level of increase would be good?
Q: How important are clean hands in the overall patient safety agenda?

Q: What about patients’ and visitors’ hand hygiene?
Q: What about relatives and carers that are helping to provide care to a patient?

Q: What role do patients and visitors play in the spread of infection?

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Q: Can I wear artificial fingernails when having direct contact with patients? 
 A: HCWs with artificial nails are more likely than those with natural nails to harbour gram-negative pathogens on their fingertips. The consensus recommendations from WHO are that HCWs do not wear artificial fingernails or extenders when having direct contact with patients and natural nails should be kept short (< 0.5cm long) (1).
 
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Q: Should targets be set for hand hygiene compliance? If so, what level of increase would be good?
A: Any such targets should first be realistic and attainable, in view of the long-term efforts required to bring about improvements in hand hygiene behaviour.  Aiming for complete compliance in the short term would obviously be difficult to achieve in facilities where initial compliance rate may be less than 40%. What should be aimed for is the establishment of a baseline, and a steady, sustainable, month by month, year on year improvement.
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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 microbes that cause HCAIs.  While hand hygiene is not the only measure to counter HCAI, compliance with it alone 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 infection. 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.
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Q: What about patients’ and visitors’ hand hygiene?
A: Patients and visitors should be encouraged to perform hand hygiene on:
  • entry to a healthcare facility
  • entry to a ward
  • prior to visiting a patient

Having ABHR available in high traffic areas eg. foyers, entrances to wards, with signage about appropriate use with help encourage this.  

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Q: What about relatives and carers that are helping to provide care to a patient?
A: If relatives and carers are helping to nurse a patient they should be shown how and when to clean their hands during a sequence of care.  However, they are unlikely to touch other patients in a similar way so are unlikely to transfer infection to other patients.

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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, hand hygiene should be encouraged. 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 body fluid exposure (see The 5 Moments for further details).

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