Hand hygiene in the intensive care unit: prospective observations of clinical practice

Pol Arch Med Wewn. 2008 Oct;118(10):543-7.


Introduction: Adherence to hand hygiene recommendations in the intensive care unit (ICU) is variable and moderate, at best.

Objectives: To measure adherence to hand hygiene recommendations among ICU clinicians in a prospective observational study in 6 multidisciplinary ICUs among 4 hospitals.

Patients and methods: We observed 115 clinicians (64 nurses, 21 respiratory therapists, 18 residents and 12 physicians) during 1 patient encounter, each. Clinicians were unaware that they were under observation. We documented use of gloves, soap, and alcohol solution before and after patient encounters for purposes of physical examination or patient care.

Results: The rate of adherence to current recommendations was 20% (95% CI 13.7-28.2). All 23 clinicians adhering to recommendations used gloves followed by washing with soap or alcohol solution. 57.4% (95% CI 48.3-66.0) of clinicians used some form of hand hygiene without fully adhering to recommendations, whereas 42.6% did not appear to attend to hand hygiene at all during observation. By univariate analysis, with nurses as the reference group, we found trends suggesting lowest adherence rates among residents (odds ratio [OR] 0.32, 95% CI 0.11-0.96) and intensivists (OR 0.46, 95% CI, 0.13-1.60), and highest adherence among respiratory therapists (OR 2.05, 95% CI 0.67-6.30). We also observed a center effect (p = 0.04). However, multivariate analysis showed no relationship of hand hygiene to clinician group (p = 0.06) nor ICU (p = 0.05).

Conclusions: Multidisciplinary, multimethod approaches to improving hand hygiene are likely necessary to improve the modest adherence to hand hygiene that we observed.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohols / administration & dosage
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hand Disinfection / standards*
  • Humans
  • Hygiene / standards*
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Poland
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Soaps / administration & dosage


  • Alcohols
  • Soaps