Objectives: To verify whether there is some correlation between the nursing workload and the occurrence of healthcare-associated infections.
Material and methods: An anonymous questionnaire made up of 20 items has been drafted for this specific purpose and delivered to a sample of 70 participants, including 33 nurses and 37 nursing students of a well-known University Hospital in Rome. The study is supported by extensive documental research, and a specific literature review.
Results: Hand hygiene is a mandatory daily practice, simple but critical, but not always clear enough for both nurses and students. The investigation demonstrated inconsistencies between nurses' and students' behaviour and what is recommended by the new WHO international guidelines. The documented correlation between the workload and the occurrence of healthcare-associated infections may be explained by the negative effect of nursing workload on correct hand-washing procedures. Out of the total sample, 58.6% answered affirmatively to both the presence of healthcare-associated infections within their unit and an excessive daily workload. Indeed, the remaining 41.4% of the sample do not report an excessive workload and states that "there are no healthcare-associated infections within their operational reality, at least not in the time period covered by the present investigation". Although limited to a small sample, this study may reveal that the correct practice of hand washing, prompted and considered fundamental by WHO, is still much underrated.
Conclusions: Hand hygiene should be better understood and practiced in all healthcare facilities, through a series of interventions such as: specific training courses, the presence of a gel sanitizer next to each patient's bed or in each patient's room, as well as the adoption of the new international guidelines in all units. The analysis of other correlations found the presence of a protective factor (RR<1) regarding the replacement of gloves for each patient and the use of disinfectant gel, both related to the excessive workload and the presence of infections. In fact, we found no statistically significant values to support such considerations (p>0.05). The same considerations could be also inferred as far as the presence of gel dispensers and disposable wipes near hospital beds are concerned, for the distribution of information leaflets about proper hand hygiene and the frequency of updating courses declared by both nurses and nursing students. The quality of health care starts from the simplest things, such proper hand hygiene.
Keywords: Alcohol-based hand rubs; Hand washing; Healthcare-associated infections; Nursing workload.