April 01, 2014 | | Comments 0
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You know, it’s kind of an interesting phenomenon…

A couple of weeks ago, there was a news item that caught my eye on a couple of levels. I’m sure many, if not most, of you “lived” through the initial onslaught of the hand sanitizer installation wars, and it appears that we may be in for another round of “a chicken in every pot and a dispenser every 6 inches.”

It would seem that the Columbia University School of Nursing and the World Health Organization have determined that about 20% of hospitals don’t have access to hand sanitizer at “every point of care,” thus missing the boat on opportunities to prevent healthcare-acquired infections (see the story here).

Now I can tell you from my experience that I have visited very few hospitals over the past few years in which I could not find expired containers of hand sanitizer hither and thither throughout the healthcare landscape. I think I can recall but a single instance in which I could find a hospital in which there was no expired hand sanitizer. To me, this means one of two things—either people aren’t using the sanitizer because the dispensers aren’t in the “right” location or people just aren’t using the product. (There is something of a third dynamic—hand sanitizer dispensers installed at hand washing sinks—I like to think folks are washing their hands at that point as opposed to using the sanitizer. Call me optimistic!)

The other component that may be impacting the distribution of hand sanitizer dispensers is that pesky Life Safety Code®. The safety folks know that there are limits to how much of this stuff we can have “hanging” around, which, to me, means we need to maximize the utilization of the dispensers that are already in place. If that doesn’t sound like an education opportunity…

I certainly won’t quibble with the notion that we are not doing a particularly spectacular job of managing healthcare-acquired infections, which kind of leads to the other piece of the Columbia/WHO study: not enough focus (resources and financing) on hand hygiene education. I suspect that hand hygiene education is probably covered pretty thoroughly in the orientation process and perhaps touched upon in ongoing annual education programs, but I don’t know that there’s a whole lot of focus on evaluating the effectiveness of hand hygiene education as a going concern. And, as a further thought, I think we need to find a way beyond just asking folks questions about hand hygiene. I think they know what responses are being sought. Maybe we need more black-light auditing of hands in the workplace, I’m not sure. Anybody out there have an evaluation process of which you are particularly proud?

 

 

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Filed Under: CDC/infection controlLife Safety Code

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Steve MacArthur About the Author: Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant with The Greeley Company in Danvers, Mass. He brings more than 30 years of healthcare management and consulting experience to his work with hospitals, physician offices, and ambulatory care facilities across the country. He is the author of HCPro's Hospital Safety Director's Handbook and is contributing editor for Briefings on Hospital Safety. Contact Steve at stevemacsafetyspace@gmail.com.

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