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.