Motivating Health Care Workers to Wash Their Hands


Barley Chironda, RPN, CIC, discusses why some health care workers are not practicing good hand hygiene and ways to motivate them to do so.

Barley Chironda, RPN, CIC, infection control specialist at Clorox Healthcare, discusses why some health care workers are not practicing good hand hygiene and ways to motivate them to do so.

Interview Transcript (modified slightly for readability):

“It seems to be common knowledge that you have to wash your hands but one of the things that we’re realizing is that there are so many complications that exist. The desire to wash your hands might be there but sometimes the pressure to just go to the next patient becomes even greater. And so, it becomes important to consider human factors, which is a study on why people don’t do the things that they should do. And it’s funny, there’s been so much work done now where they stand behind people with cameras and they get to see that maybe sometimes the hand sanitizer is behind a bed, so for the person to walk around to get to it, they might think, ‘I’m just going to do it next time.’ What that does is you have to, when you think about how to get people to do the right thing, you have to help them do the right thing. And by engineering some of those solutions into their regular work, then you help them do the right thing. It’s an important thing; we should wash our hands more and I think the aim is to figure out how to help people wash their hands all of the time.

Right now, I think just like many other infection control activities within the hospital, people try signage so that they can leave a sign that says, ‘Wash your hands,’ or they can leave a sign that says, ‘Disinfect this room with a sporicide’ but what I’m noticing is most problematic is that regardless of whatever intervention that people are looking at doing, it seems to miss the mark because it boils down to what motivates people and what the human factors are. Penalty only gets so far. Science only gets so far. Sometimes it’s a matter of tweaking the messaging to the necessary piece and the talk I’m doing today is really going to be about implementation science, which is another science that has been added into the mix. We know people should wash their hands, but somehow between them knowing and them doing it, there’s a big gap. The implementation science is the true science of evaluating how to get people to do the right thing. I think in the context of hand hygiene, there are different things for different folks and not one strategy fits everywhere. What I’ve learned in my practice is when you empower people to make the choice of what makes them wash their hands, then you get more progress. And so, I’ve seen anything from electronic systems being used; I’ve seen signage work, but it really comes down to: did you involve that health care worker and did you empower them to decide what they want to do?”

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