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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

In an era of untreatable infections, employee health programs boosting hand washing compliance

If the rise of multidrug resistant pathogens has a thin silver lining, it is the message that hand hygiene may be just as important for health care workers as patients. Of course, patients are at greater risk than immune competent health care workers, but the continued warnings of a post-antibiotic era of untreatable infections have created a message that resonates, a teachable moment if you will.

Employee health professionals can play an important role in raising awareness about the importance of hand hygiene when they have other interactions with employees, says Amy Delp, RN, MSN, administrator of the Center for Quality at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, OH.

“Reinforcing flu vaccination, good hand hygiene and cough etiquette emphasizes how important [precautions are] in keeping our workforce and our patients healthy,” she says. “[Each encounter] is an opportunity to script a message” to reduce the risk of transmission.

The message at MetroHealth is simple and ubiquitous: Wash in, Wash out. Wash when you enter a patient’s room, wash when you leave. Every employee learned how and why they should use hand sanitizer or soap and water. “It was required education for every employee in the hospital,” says Delp.

The “Wash In, Wash Out” program began in 2011, after the hospital detected an increase in multi-drug resistant Acinetobacter baumannii At the time, hand hygiene compliance was only about 50%. In the first month of the program, compliance rose to 89% and has since hovered between 92% and 98%.

--Michele Marill

For more on this story see the December issue of Hospital Employee Health.