Hand Hygiene - Essay Sample

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University of Richmond
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The term hand hygiene is used to describe the process of decontaminating hands through hand washing using either water with plain soap, antibacterial soap or by using alcohol based products that contain emollient. These alcohol-based products do not require water for decontaminating hands. Plain soap and antibacterial soap are more effective in cases where hands are contaminated with soil or visible dirt while alcohol based products are preferred in all other cases. This helps to kill germs that inhabit ones skin and can be spread from one person to another through contact. These germs are mainly bacteria which can cause serious infections. Some bacteria, known as flora or commensals inhabit the skin and multiply very fast to increase in number. Those bacteria that are easily spread from one person to another through contact are referred to as transient microorganisms.

Hand washing is recognized as the most important procedure for preventing cross infection and has been promoted in the healthcare field for generations. Hand washing is a concept that emerged in the 19th century and gained popularity in the 1970s with development of specific hand hygiene guidelines to assist in prevention of infections in hospitals, other healthcare facilities as well as in peoples homes. Today, hand washing is recognized as an integral part of quality healthcare to patients and is included among the required standards for hospital accreditation. Hand washing helps to reduce the risk of infections among the general public, staff of healthcare staff and among patients in healthcare facilities.

Infections acquired in healthcare facilities such as hospitals as a result of poor hand hygiene only leads to prolonged stays in the hospital for patients, consumes a lot of resources which are scarce and poses challenges for clinical governance. Hospital acquired infections can be reduced if both patients and medical staff decontaminated their hands very often following stipulated guidelines and procedures for hand hygiene. The main purpose of disinfecting hands is to reduce the spread of pathogens on hands from one person to the next. The type of hand infection by pathogens will often determine the extent of disinfection required to kill the pathogens and prevent cross infection.

Evidence-Based Significance of the Project

This hand hygiene project is very significant for the healthcare industry in a variety of ways. Firstly, hand hygiene is directly linked to the quality of healthcare services. Hospital workers who do not adhere to hand hygiene practices often undermine the quality of their work, thus leading to poor patient outcomes and in some situations, death. The failure to observe hand hygiene often arises from the need for the hospitals expanding to accommodate the increasing number of patients and the rush that healthcare workers have as they try to cover more work in the shortest time possible. In some cases, the failure to observe hand hygiene results from sheer negligence where the healthcare workers overlook the importance of hand hygiene in treatment. The resultant factor is poor delivery of healthcare and the inability of healthcare providers to meet their objectives.

The prevention of injuries and sickness through modern provisions such as high-quality lighting and temperature-controlled environments is standard, but the prevention of infections continues to be a challenge. Healthcare providers ought to ensure there is asepsis whenever attending to a patient in the hospital, that is, a state where the patient has a sterile environment free of external pathogens that can cause infections during the period of treatment. Nurses and medical practitioners in close contact with the patient should have knowledge on the various techniques in order to prevent the patient from coming into contact with potentially harmful bacteria.

Studies indicate that many patients lose their lives after surgical treatments due to infections that could have otherwise been prevented. For example, in Canada, 9% of all patients in the country acquire infections during and after the operation process leading to deaths amounting to around 5,000-15,000 victims per year. Is this generalizable to the US? Evidence from scholarly journals, indicates that the most common type of healthcare-acquired infections results from open wounds, accounting for 38% portion of all surgical operation. Lewis, Dirksen, Heitkemper, & Bucher (2010), notes that in the United States, there are more than 500,000 cases of infections annually that are related to wounds during the surgical processes. Most of the wound infections affect adults and once the infections have occurred, the patients are forced on average to incur an extra $3,152 in medical costs to treat the infections.

The main responsibility of ensuring a safe and a healthy surgical environment rests on the nursing staff, meaning that negligence accounts for most of the infections that occur. According to statistics from the Center for Disease Control, around 27 million patients undergo surgeries in the United States on an annual basis. Of these patients, there is a probability that a third of them will remain in hospital for longer periods due to infections that occur during the surgery process. As a result of the patients staying longer in the hospitals, they end up incurring more financial costs and in some cases, the infections are ultimately fatal.

Several audit reports in the healthcare sector in the U.S and other developed countries including Canada indicate that the levels of hand hygiene compliance have been deteriorating. According to most of the3se reports, the main culprits of surgical infections were poor hygiene and staff not adhering to hand hygiene procedures. Therefore, it is recommended that hospital staff receive more education so that they could better understand causes of the healthcare-related infections and ways of eliminating the infections.


Brownson, R. C. (2011). Evidence-based public health. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Goldsteen, R. L., Goldsteen, K., & Graham, D. G. (2011). Introduction to public health. New York: Springer Pub.

Parker, M. E., & Smith, M. C. (2010). Nursing Theories & Nursing Practice. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Co.

White, L, Duncan, G & Baumle, W (2013). Medical-surgical nursing: an integrated approach, 3rd edn, Delmar Cengage Learning, New York.


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