Effective handwashing is important at any time of year but as we move into the winter flu season, there’s no excuse for your staff team taking short cuts with this most important of infection control measures. In fact, one study of French care homes showed that improving hand hygiene led to a drop in mortality rate of a staggering 30% over the winter period, as a result of reducing the rate of flu amongst elderly service users.
The handwashing awareness programme used by the care homes included access to hand-rub solution using pocket-sized containers and wall-mounted dispensers, a campaign to promote hand hygiene with posters and events, and the formation of local work groups in each home to focus on guidelines and staff education. The staff were also given online quizzes to complete with those scoring low marks being required to repeat the education programme in order to ensure their knowledge reached a suitable standard.
This study only reinforces the importance of handwashing and should act as a trigger for every care home to ensure that staff awareness is a priority. Read on to learn how you can promote good handwashing practice amongst your team and minimise the risks of flu to your service users this winter.
Focussing minds on something as mundane as handwashing can be a challenge, even when people understand its importance. However, Global Handwashing Day, which falls on October 15th this year, provides the perfect opportunity to raise awareness amongst your team. The event was originally introduced to raise awareness of handwashing amongst children but now welcomes any organisation aiming to raise awareness of hand hygiene.
3 Steps to Mark Global Handwashing Day and Protect Your Service Users this Winter
- Improve staff awareness: Use Global Handwashing Day as an opportunity to highlight the importance of this simple but essential activity. Poster campaigns, group discussions and training sessions can all be helpful, or you could even appoint ‘handwashing champions’ to promote and monitor good practice amongst your team.
- Check your resources: You will, no doubt, already have alcohol hand gel readily available as well as antibacterial hand wash for use at sinks. However, use your awareness day to check that these are easily accessible and available in sufficient quantities. Think about whether additional dispensers may be needed or if small, portable bottles of alcohol gel could be carried by staff, particularly during outbreaks. You should also make sure that all sinks are equipped with paper towels to ensure hands can be dried properly.
- Introduce handwashing spot checks: It’s essential that you make sure that staff are decontaminating their hands between all episodes of personal care so carry out regular spot checks throughout the day and challenge any poor practice observed. You could also include checks on handwashing technique and knowledge of when gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE) should be used and continue to use these regularly, even after your awareness day is over.
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