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Hand hygiene reminder light should be in nurses’ heads not on a badge

  • Comments (4)

Last week we reported that staff at Doncaster Royal Infirmary are trialling a traffic light-style hand hygiene reminder tool.

The device is being used in the emergency department and on a ward. The badge-like device is worn on the upper body and detects hand movements and the presence of hand gel. Green means the hands are clean, amber shows they are ready for washing, and when the hands remain unwashed the device turns red and beeps.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for new technology – and this seems like a clever device. But something about this new invention strikes me as wrong.  

I think for me the hand hygiene light should be going on in every nurse’s head, not on a badge. The need to clean your hands between patients should an intuitive and automatic part of nursing practice.  And of course every member of the multidisciplinary team has the same responsibility.

As with other pieces of technology, there is a danger that health professionals will start to rely on the device rather than taking responsibility for themselves. That they will start to think that the device means they no longer need to focus on the issue of hand hygiene.

Hand hygiene is essential – and particularly so at this time of year, with the winter pressures looming. However, carrying out effective hand hygiene is  well within the scope of nursing staff and I would prefer to see the NHS spending money on new technology that cannot easily be replaced by the actions of staff. 

  • Comments (4)

Readers' comments (4)

  • I agree completely, and if a nurse does not maintain good hand hygiene, whether busy or not, then she is in the wrong profession! However I am a realist and whilst undertaking the infection control course in 2007 had to carry out a covert audit on hand hygiene in the ward. I was pleasantly surprised by most of the nursing and medical staff, but found knowledge of hand hygiene lacking somewhat in allied professionals who regularly entered the ward. I was able to rectify that very easily and it improved almost immediately, however it is something to remember when nursing staff are blamed for almost every infection that occurs!

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  • Anonymous

    totally agree and said as much in a previous comment on the subject.

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  • I would agree with the above IF all Nurses and other health staff washed their hands properly when they should. Unfortunately the evidence shows that we consistently fail to do this with Doctors being the worst offenders. So, any technology that serves as a reminder must be good practice. A reminder not a replacement for good practice...

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  • Anonymous

    I think this is a wonderful idea. It is said half in jest and the other in earnest. It will allow managers/clinical auditors to measure the quantity of episodes of care conducted by individual HCPs. If the device is allocated and logged to individuals, the data may be downloaded to provide an 'at a glance' time and motion study.
    Analysis of data would provide hand washing data or lack thereof for HCPs whilst delivering care on multiple wards and interacting with patients with the whole spectrum of infective risk. It may also facilitate the gleaning of data on what HCPs deliver care in a particular setting, and the active number of HCPs delivering said care in any shift rotation.
    Consider the potential questions that could arise, if a HCP completed multiple patient medical notes/Nursing 'Kardex'/ AHP intervention, but the hand-washing data did not collate with the documented episodes of care. Simply put, if an HCP records 10 episodes of direct patient care (the slightest physical contact is pertinent) and there is only 12 recorded 'washes', then what? I could imagine being asked about the missing 8?
    The potential for being an infection origin tool cannot be underplayed. Not only that but it would provide information on the most touted aspect of care delivery - who is providing it, and providing a transparency on the HCPs available to do it. Perhaps every NHS trust should adopt this 'reminder tool'? Every member of hospital/community staff could be provided with the device. Despite a considerable financial outlay in the first instance the long term benefits could be tremendous. At the touch of a button everyone could find out who provide the 'hands on' care.
    Do HCPs need this device and if so, why?

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