Doctors Often Neglect Hand Washing When Not Being Watched: Study

Posted: Jun 13 2016, 1:36am CDT | by , Updated: Jun 14 2016, 11:57pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News


Doctors Often Neglect Hand Washing When Not Being Watched: Study
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New research suggests that hospital staff do not wash their hands as often as they should. Butthe situation changes dramatically when they know they are being watched.

Healthcare workers are too careless with hand washing despite the fact that poor hand hygiene can cause the spread infections in hospitals. 

New research suggests that doctors and other health care staff do not wash their hands as often as they should. But the study which was presented at Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) conference in North Carolina found that hand washing routines differed dramatically when they knew they are being watched or supervised.

Research suggests that even doctors, who are highly trained and educated professionals, can fall victim to a phenomenon called Hawthorne Effect where people change their behavior when they know they’re being watched. The change which was observed in the behavior, was truly remarkable. When healthcare staff know they are being watched, they are twice as likely to follow hand hygiene guidelines. 

“The level of hand hygiene compliance when staff did not know they were being watched was surprising,” said Maricris Niles, infection prevention analyst from Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

“This study demonstrated to us that hand hygiene observations are influenced by the Hawthorne Effect and that unknown observers should be used to get the most accurate hand hygiene data.”

For the research, five infection prevention nurses known to staff and 15 hospital volunteers not known to staff were assigned to observe hand washing routines at San Jose, CA, hospital over the course of six months in 2015. Researchers also briefed them on what is important and what they need to report back. 

When observations were presented, researchers found that the hand hygiene compliance rate observed by infection prevention nurses was about 57 percent whole hospital volunteers who were not recognized by the staff provided rate of about 22 percent. 

Hand washing is considered one of the effective and an inexpensive way to control the spread of infections. Still it is a practice mostly neglected in the clinical area. Healthcare personnel should wash their hands before and after they had contact with patients, but the question still remains. How we can improve hand-washing rates in hospitals? Researchers believe changes are required to improve hand hygiene. 

Another separate research suggests that arousing the feelings of disgust can have a meaningful impact. The infection team at the Henry Ford Health System found that hand-washing rates improved after hospital staff members were shown images of millions of bacteria found on common surfaces and the feeling of dirtiness was evoked in them.

Infection prevention specialist Ashley Gregory who led the project said. “Hospital staff wanted to wash their hands after looking at the book and picturing similar contamination on their own skin.”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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