Background: Healthcare workers generally underestimate the role of environmental surfaces in the transmission of infection, and compliance with hand hygiene following contact with the environment is generally lower than following direct patient contact. To reduce the risk of onward transmission, healthcare workers must identify the need to wash hands with specific tasks or events.
Aim: To observe the movement of staff in critical care and general wards and determine the routes most commonly travelled and the surfaces most frequently touched with and without appropriate hand hygiene.
Methods: Fifty-eight 90 min sessions of unobtrusive observation were made in open bays and isolation rooms. Link analysis was used to record staff movement from one location to another as well as the frequency of motion. Hand-hygiene audits were conducted using the World Health Organization 'five moments for hand hygiene' observational tool.
Findings: In critical care, the majority of movement occurred within the bed space. The bedside computer and equipment trolley were the surfaces most commonly touched, often immediately after patient contact. In the general ward, movement between bed spaces was more common and observed hand hygiene ranged from 25% to 33%. Regardless of ward type, observed hand-hygiene compliance when touching the patient immediately on entering an isolation room was less than 30%.
Conclusions: Healthcare workers must be made aware that bacterial spread can occur even during activities of perceived low risk. Education and intervention programmes should focus on the potential contamination of ward computers, case notes and door handles.
Copyright © 2013 The Healthcare Infection Society. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.