Hand hygiene lacking in overcrowded EDs
There's (more) bad news for patients being treated in overcrowded emergency departments (EDs).
A new study has found that healthcare professionals are far less likely to wash their hands - an essential element of infection control - if they are treating patients on trolleys and chairs in corridors.
US researchers looked at the experiences of almost 6,000 patients in EDs and found that while most of the time, healthcare professionals maintained good hand hygiene, in certain situations, this was not the case.
"We found that receiving care in a hallway bed was the strongest predictor of your healthcare providers not washing their hands," explained lead researcher, Dr Arjun Venkatesh, of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
He said that he hoped these findings would highlight the risk of infection associated with ED overcrowding.
This marks the largest study ever carried out into hand hygiene in EDs. It confirmed a number of situations which were already associated with poor hygiene practises.
For example, in many cases, the researchers found that a number of healthcare professionals opted to wear gloves while treating patients rather than wash their hands. However, in terms of infection control, this is acknowledged as a poor substitute.
Meanwhile, the researchers also found that healthcare professionals whose job it was to move patients between hospital departments and wards were less likely to wash their hands than their colleagues.
"With emergency departments serving as a frequent interface between the public and patients with communicable diseases, we have to build systems that ensure the highest standards of hand washing and infection control to ensure the safest care for all patients," commented Dr Jeremiah Schuur, director for quality, safety and performance improvement at the hospital.
Details of these findings are published in the journal, Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.
[Posted: Wed 05/10/2011]