Hand hygiene compliance drops at the end of a healthcare shift

3rd of December 2014
Hand hygiene compliance drops at the end of a healthcare shift

Hospital workers are less likely to wash their hands towards the end of their shift, according to new research.

And the study suggests that this lack of compliance is due to fatigue from the demands of the job.

Researchers analysed three years' worth of hand washing data from more than 4,000 caregivers in 35 hospitals across the US. They discovered hand washing compliance rates dropped by an average of 8.7 percentage points from the beginning to the end of a typical 12 hour shift.

"For hospital caregivers, hand washing may be viewed as a lower priority task and it appears that compliance with hand hygiene guidelines suffers as the work day progresses," said Hengchen Dai who led the study at the University of Pennsylvania.

"Demanding jobs have the potential to energise employees, but the pressure may make them focus more on maintaining performance on their primary tasks, particularly when they are fatigued."

A total of 65 per cent of the caregivers in the study were nurses while the others were patient care technicians, therapists or physicians.

The study, published by the American Psychological Association, also revealed that increased work intensity was linked to a drop in compliance. But staff were also more likely to follow hand washing protocols after a long break which meant that more time off between shifts had a beneficial effect.

According to the study's authors: "Clearly future research should investigate how to reduce these harmful effects of work demands on routine compliance."



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