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Archive February 2012 XIII, No. 2

Ideas That Work: Innovate For Infection Prevention

A Hand Hygiene Art Contest Boosted Our Compliance

A Hand Hygiene Art Contest Boosted Our Compliance
We thought our hand hygiene compliance rate was around 70%, but volunteer "secret shoppers" observing staff in all departments, 24/7, for 2 weeks brought us back to reality when the collected data revealed only 33% compliance.

Interviewing staff members, we found that forgetfulness was a big factor in hand hygiene shortfalls. Someone leaving a patient's room might be so busy thinking about the next 2 or 3 jobs she had to do that she'd walk right past a hand sanitizer dispenser or scrub sink.

What would help us remember? Wall posters work, but signs eventually fade into the wall and compliance dips again. We visited the big local high school and talked with 2 art teachers who were eager to help. With their assistance, we set up a "hand hygiene art contest." We explained the practice of hand hygiene and the message we wanted to get across. Students weren't just entering a contest, we told them, they were helping patients. A grant from a community organization let us award prizes. Students could submit posters using any media, and we'd judge them on artistic ability, originality and the strength of the message.

We received about 140 entries, some 30 of which were quite good. SpongeBob washing his hands, a battleship opening fire on germs and clean fingers holding a globe, just to name a few. We posted them, with the students' names as well as the name of their high school, around the hospital. They drew interest from staff, and more importantly they drew attention to our infection prevention concerns and who we were aiming to protect.

Our overall hand hygiene compliance went up. In fact, it became competitive after 2 units demonstrated 100% compliance. Then everyone was looking to see how well their teams did.

The art contest wasn't the only reminder we had on site — and it can't be, since compliance will probably flag again some day. We've hung signs in every patient room encouraging patients and families to remind their providers to wash their hands. We have day-glo paper hands over every hand sanitizer dispenser. We've posted photos of staff members washing their hands over the sinks.

You need to keep innovating your initiatives. We're considering pasting some sort of hand hygiene reminders on the wall clocks that everyone looks at multiple times a day to stay on top of their scheduled tasks, the progress of their shifts and their lunch breaks. And we're thinking about soliciting hand hygiene posters from employees' children, to get everyone looking to find out "Whose kid drew this one?"

Cecilia Wilfinger, BS, RN
Forest Hills Hospital
Forest Hills, N.Y.

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