Increasing Handwashing in an Intensive Care Unit

Infect Control. 1986 May;7(5):259-62. doi: 10.1017/s0195941700064171.


The present study provides the first systematic evaluation of strategies for increasing handwashing of hospital staff. Nursing staff on two intensive care units (ICUs) were observed over a 3-month period. After baseline observations, two interventions were implemented on the experimental unit: changing to an emollient handwashing agent, and providing feedback to staff about the frequency of handwashing. Feedback focused on the previous day's handwashing following completed patient contacts, interrupted patient contacts, and critical procedures. No increase in handwashing was observed following introduction of the emollient soap. However, when feedback was provided on the experimental ICU, handwashing following completed patient contacts (the major dependent measure) increased to 92%, and was significantly higher than handwashing on the control unit. Follow-up observations suggested that compliance on the experimental unit appeared to return to baseline levels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Feedback
  • Hand Disinfection*
  • Hospital Bed Capacity, 500 and over
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / standards*
  • Mississippi
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital*
  • Soaps


  • Soaps