• Article
  • November 13, 2018

Show Them the Germs: Visual Aids Help Educate Staff on Hand Hygiene

Powerful visual aids help this hospital keep hand hygiene front and center with staff.

Kim Romberg, M.S.N., RN, CIC, infection preventionist at Shriners Hospitals for Children-Chicago, conducted a petri dish challenge to show how microorganisms can grow and spread within the hospital. She asked four staff members if she could swab their cellphones, and she sent the swabs to the hospital's in-house lab where the samples were plated. Romberg took photos of the samples two days later and shared them with staff.

The bottom row shows the hand hygiene efforts of nurses. The top row shows the results from non-clinical staff.
The bottom row shows the hand hygiene efforts of nurses. The top row shows the results from non-clinical staff.

The photo (at right) speaks for itself: The bottom row shows the hand hygiene efforts of nurses who frequently wash hands and clean their handheld devices. The top row show the results of the swabs from non-clinical staff phones.

On the inpatient unit, Romberg used fluorescent powder on a computer mouse to illustrate fake germs and show how they can spread quickly. The next day Kim came back with a viewer to show staff how the fake germs had spread to other areas on the unit.

In addition to the petri dish, Romberg deputized patients as the "Hand Hygiene Police" by giving them hand clappers. On one side it said, "Thank you for cleaning your hands." The other side said, "Please clean your hands." Romberg instructed patients to clap and thank staff or encourage them.

After these efforts, employee interest in infection control programs increased. There was also increased interest in the ReadyDock disinfection stations around hospital. These stations allow staff to sanitize their handled devices. While many staff were already using them, additional employees are now seeing the benefits.

Tips for hand hygiene education

Here are other ways Shriners Hospitals for Children-Chicago keeps hand hygiene practices front-and-center with staff, which has helped the hospital achieve a 93 percent hand hygiene compliance rate for the third quarter:

  • High Five for Hand Hygiene Program. If an employee sees another who has not cleaned his or her hands when indicated, the employee says, "high five," as a cue for that staff member to clean his or her hands without embarrassment in front of a patient or family.
  • "In and out" in the patient care area. Staff use the waterless, alcohol-based hand foam outside of patents rooms when entering and leaving. The alcohol-based foam is also available in the patient rooms if needed during direct patient care.
  • Observers. "Undercover" observers watch staff clean their hands. They complete compliance forms for the infection prevention team , who tallies the results quarterly. If a staff member is non-compliant with hand hygiene practices, he or she receives a confidential letter indicating they were observed and had missed the opportunity or did not perform hand hygiene correctly. They employee is asked to review the steps and return the form to the infection prevention team.
  • Signage. Throughout the facility, signage and screen savers promote good hand hygiene practices.

Tell us: How is your hospital educating staff on the importance of hand hygiene?