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Examining hand hygiene in the emergency department

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that emergency department visits are on the rise in the United States, resulting in overcrowding at some hospitals. Concerned about the infectious risks caused by emergency department crowding, and wanting to better understand the role of workers in spreading pathogens among patients, a group of researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston launched the largest study to date to evaluate hand hygiene of ED workers.

In the study (subscription required), researchers collected and analyzed data on more than 5,800 patient encounters in an urban, academic emergency department between January 2009 and April 2010. Study results, which appears in the November issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, showed that appropriate hand washing practices were used 90 percent of the time. But it also identified some areas in which improvement is needed. According to a release from the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America:

... researchers observed providers wearing gloves during patient care instead of washing their hands, an inappropriate substitution for infection control purposes.

The study also found that workers who transport patients between hospital departments and rooms were less likely to wash their hands compared to other healthcare workers. This may be because these workers receive less training in hand hygiene procedures than other workers.

Study authors say they hope the findings spur additional research on hand washing compliance in emergency departments, which are visited by nearly 124 million Americans visit annually.

Previously: Good advice from Washyourhandsington, Hey, health workers: Washing your hands is good for your patients, Clean hands save lives and Everything you ever wanted to know about hand hygiene
Photo by James Emery

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