Hand hygiene 'too complex for doctors'

6th of June 2014
Hand hygiene 'too complex for doctors'

An Australian study has revealed doctors at most public hospitals are failing to follow national hand hygiene guidelines.

This is because the current five-step approach is too complex, says Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, an infectious diseases expert at the University of New South Wales.

Her study focused on how regularly health workers wash their hands before seeing a patient, which is the first hand-hygiene opportunity in the five-step plan adopted in Australia in 2009.

The approach should be simplified to focus on washing hands before and after seeing each patient, says Prof McLaws, who has published a report in the Medical Journal of Australia.

Human instinct, she says, will take care of other protocols, such as washing after coming into contact with bodily fluids.

"We need to simplify it," said Prof McLaws. "Five behaviour changes were thrown at the doctors and nurses all at once.

"The nurses got it. They are exemplary compared with doctors. But they work in teams and support each other."

Prof McLaws also says the way compliance is audited also needs an overhaul. Auditors and other health workers should be empowered to intervene politely if they see a colleague breaching hygiene guidelines. "We have neglected to help doctors change their behaviour," she commented.


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