Objective: The frequent handwashing and gloving required in high-risk, high-volume patient care areas such as critical care units damages skin of the hands. The purpose of this exploratory study was to compare 2 hand care regimens (traditional antiseptic wash with chlorhexidine-containing detergent versus mild soap wash with subsequent alcohol-based rinse for degerming as necessary) in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
Design: Prospective, quasi-experimental, random assignment.
Setting: One NICU (47 beds) in a New York City children's hospital.
Subjects: Sixteen full-time NICU nurses.
Outcome measures: Microbial flora and skin condition of hands.
Intervention: Nurses were randomly assigned to one of the 2 hand care regimens.
Results: No significant differences in microbial counts or types of organisms from hands of staff were found, but after 2 weeks nurses in the mild soap and alcohol group had significant improvements in their skin condition (P =.005).
Conclusions: Use of a mild soap for cleaning and an alcohol-based product for degerming may offer an acceptable alternative to the traditional antiseptic handwash and may reduce skin damage to health care professionals' hands.