Infection Prevention: 5 Hospital Handwashing Programs That Save Lives

Updated: Oct 31, 2018

It’s no secret that hand hygiene programs should be a key part of any hospital’s infection prevention efforts. But, often, simply telling employees to wash up is not enough. Turning this concept into an actionable campaign can require creativity.

Here are 5 hospitals who have met this challenge head-on and implemented innovative handwashing programs that are saving lives through infection prevention.

1. South Carolina Hospital Association

In 2009, the South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA) helped South Carolina become the first state to partner with the World Health Organization (WHO) to implement a statewide hand hygiene campaign.

To do their part in the WHO’s “Save Lives: Clean Your Hands” program, the SCHA launched their own campaign called “Grime Scene Investigators.” The campaign’s goal was simple: to raise awareness about why clean hands in hospitals are so important.

As a May 2011 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention blog post explained, to accomplish this, hospitals throughout the state received materials needed to create a “grime scene,” where people could learn about the importance of handwashing in infection control efforts.

2. Jackson Hospital (Alabama)

Like the SCHA, Jackson Hospital in Montgomery, Alabama also harnessed the power of puns for their hand hygiene campaign, “All Hands on Deck.”

The hospital’s website describes the campaign as a joint effort that requires participation by both patients and hospital staff: “Patients and healthcare providers need to work together to ensure we keep the upper hand against germs.”

In addition to explaining the role that handwashing plays in infection prevention—as well as common symptoms of healthcare-associated infections to be on the lookout for—the hospital also provides information for both patients and providers about when and how to wash up.

3. Vanderbilt University Medical Center (Tennessee)

Like UNC, Vanderbilt University Medical Center also took a data-driven approach to tracking the success of their hand hygiene program.

The program involved setting goals, creating accountability, and implementing performance-related financial incentives.

According to a November 2013 article in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, between July 2009 and August 2012 the hospital recorded nearly 110,000 hand hygiene observations.

4. UNC Hospitals (North Carolina)

The goal of UNC Hospitals’ “Clean In, Clean Out” program is clear: “to achieve 90% hand hygiene compliance” in order to meet Joint Commission requirements for showing ongoing improvement in this critical area of infection prevention.

At the heart of this program is a simple rule: Every employee must clean their hands upon entry and exit of a patient’s room or bedspace.

To ensure that the organization is meeting its goals, employees are encouraged to report instances of both compliance and noncompliance. Each month, the results of these reports are made available on UNC Hospitals’ Intranet.

This data-driven approach allows them to break down the results by hospital, unit, and provider type.

5. Mon General Hospital (West Virginia)

Many hand hygiene-based infection prevention programs rely solely on hospital staff compliance.

But, as any care provider who has found himself rushing from one patient to another can attest, even the most well-intentioned staff members sometimes forget to scrub up before approaching the next bedside.

So, in April 2016, a hospital in West Virginia decided to take a simple but innovative approach to boost compliance: patient empowerment.

Mon General Hospital’s “It’s OK to Ask!” campaign “encourages patients and visitors to take an active role in their health and safety by requesting that a healthcare provider wash his or her hands.”

While each of these hospitals took a different approach to hand hygiene compliance, they all made one thing clear: Proper hand hygiene is ground zero for infection prevention. Learn more about our hand washing tool for healthcare facilities:

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