Hand hygiene has long been recognized as one of the most important actions that can be taken to stop the spread of germs. This month marks 10 years since the hospitalwide rollout of the MGH Hand Hygiene Program, developed by the Stop the Transmission of Pathogens (STOP) Task Force.
“By the year 2000, studies had shown that health care workers averaged less than 50 percent compliance with recommended hand hygiene practices nationwide, and drug resistant infections were on the rise,” says Judy Tarselli, RN, of the Infection Control Unit.
Established in 2002 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the current hand hygiene guidelines for health care workers require the use of an alcohol-based hand rub before and after contact with every patient or patient’s environment, in addition to washing and moisturizer use.
“The MGH Hand Hygiene Program has been successful in improving our practices, achieving excellence in compliance and reducing the risk of infections,” says Tarselli.
Hospitalwide compliance rates climbed from 8 percent before contact and 47 percent after contact, to as high as 94 percent before contact and 97 percent after contact, adds Tarselli. “Some units and practice groups routinely achieve 100 percent compliance and MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) infection rates at the MGH have reached historic lows.”
Tarselli credits the program’s performance to various hospital initiatives including increased Cal Stat availability, continuous education, peer influence by more than 150 hand hygiene champions, poster and publicity campaigns, rewards, leadership support and a cultural change that encourages staff to speak up for hand hygiene excellence.
“MGH has shared its success with other hospitals across the country and around the world, but it is important we do not rest on our laurels,” says Tarselli. “As a large teaching hospital, we are constantly faced with new people, new technologies and an ever-changing work environment – all of which can pose new challenges.”
Most recently, efforts have been focused on the safe handling of smartphones in the clinical setting. “Smartphones can improve communications and enhance care but can also become contaminated during routine use and handling. Studies elsewhere have shown that more than 90 percent of all cell phones are contaminated with at least one pathogen,” Tarselli says. “But good hand hygiene and cleaning practices can allow us to use these tools without increasing the risk of infection.”
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the MGH Hand Hygiene Program, the STOP Task Force will host an event in the Eat Street Café on March 21 from noon to 1 pm. All are welcome.
Read more articles from the 03/14/14 Hotline issue.