Microbes causing healthcare associated infections are mostly transmitted through the hands. Consequently, healthcare providers need to have clean hands when giving care to a patient. Hand hygiene consists of washing your hands with water and soap, or disinfecting them with alcohol based solution. Applying alcohol based solution is faster, more efficient and user friendly. Hand disinfection is the preferred method for hand hygiene in the hospital. When the hands are visibly dirty, they have to be washed with water and soap followed by disinfection with alcohol based solution.
In a hospital setting, washing hands with water an soap is not sufficient. Therefore, healthcare providers need to disinfect their hands using alcohol based solution. When wearing gloves, the hands are protected against contamination with microbes. But even when wearing gloves, hand hygiene remains necessary. Besides, gloves need to be removed (and replaced) at the right moments during care.
For hand hygiene to be performed correctly, physicians, nursing and paramedic staff (e.g. physiotherapists, healthcare assistants, medical imaging technologists, long function technologists, …) need to fulfil some basic conditions:
- No jewellery, watches or bracelets on hands and wrists/forearms
- Nails have to be cut short and clean (no nail enamel and no artificial nails)
- Short sleeves
- Covering of (small) wounds
Proper hand hygiene is important not only for healthcare provider, but also for yourself as a patient or a visitor. Clean your hands before each meal and especially after using the restroom. That is the golden rule! That way, you get contaminated with as little microbes as possible from your environment and you prevent them from being transmitted to other people. In daily life, washing hands with water and soap is sufficient.