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Digital Issues

Archive >  December, 2013 XIV, No. 12

Hand-Healthy Hand Scrubs

The quest for products that protect your skin as well as they prevent infection.

Dan O'Connor, Editor-in-Chief

hand hygiene IF THEY LIKE, THEY'LL USE There is a correlation between hand hygiene compliance and the surgical scrub products that you use.

The perfect waterless surgical scrub? Yet to be invented, says Chantell Bartell, RN, BSN, the OR coordinator at the Tallahassee (Fla.) Outpatient Surgery Center. For if it existed, it would be odorless, it would dry in seconds, it wouldn't irritate the skin, and every surgeon and staff member would happily use it throughout the day without complaint or cracked cuticles.

"No, that doesn't exist," says Ms. Bartell. "Some of our doctors can use one scrub and some have to use an alternative scrub." That means the center is forced to stock 2 alcohol-based hand rubs — one that dries faster but has a higher alcohol content and is harsher on the skin than the one that's softer on the skin but takes longer to dry. "It takes a while to rub that one in," she says. "Some doctors don't like to have to wait for their hands to dry."

If they like it, they'll use it
Let's see — wait a few seconds for your hands to dry, or suffer dry, chapped, itchy skin? There's no clear-cut answer because convenience and hand-hygiene compliance go hand in hand. If your surgeons' hands are red and burning from dermatitis, compliance with hand-washing regulations will plummet as they avoid exposure to the irritants causing the problem.

"Yes, they're directly related," says Rene Bates, RN, BSN, clinical improvement manager at the Knoxville (Tenn.) Orthopaedic Surgery Center. "If they like the product and don't mind using it, they seem to be more apt to do hand hygiene when it's most appropriate."

Ms. Bates trialed 3 alcohol-based hand rubs before settling on the one that her team liked most and disliked least. Since the center opened in 2009, they'd been using a foam rub that "nobody was really a big fan of and several people hated," she says. "It caused some hands to crack and people didn't like the smell. It wasn't a fresh, clean smell. You can imagine our compliance rate."

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