Frequency and duration of handwashing in an intensive care unit

Am J Infect Control. 1990 Apr;18(2):77-81. doi: 10.1016/0196-6553(90)90085-7.


The effects on hand decontamination of the introduction of an antiseptic handrub lotion in an intensive care unit was studied. To obtain baseline data, nursing, medical, physiotherapy, radiology, and orderly staff members were observed. Further observations were carried out after the introduction of the handrub lotion. Patient care activities were classified as high or low, according to the degree of contact with the patients or their equipment. A total of 884 patient contacts and 341 hand decontamination episodes was observed: 440 contacts and 140 handwashes in stage one (32%) and 444 contacts and 201 handwashes in stage two (45%). There was an increase of 13% in hand decontamination frequency after the introduction of the handrub lotion. The data indicate that the frequency of hand decontamination is below levels recommended by infection control authorities. Increasing the accessibility of hand decontamination facilities did result in a slight increase in handwashing compliance.

MeSH terms

  • Cross Infection / prevention & control
  • Emollients / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Hand Disinfection* / methods
  • Hand Disinfection* / standards
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Male
  • Personnel, Hospital / standards*
  • Time Factors


  • Emollients