In the care home environment, rigorous and effective infection control procedures are absolutely crucial - yet the single most significant contribution that staff can make to safeguard the health of their residents and fellow staff is to simply wash their hands. Taking place on October 15th, Global Handwashing Day is an annual worldwide event that highlights the sheer importance of handwashing and hand hygiene, as a crucial step in preventing the spread of disease and ultimately, saving lives.
The theme for Global Handwashing Day 2016 is to ‘Make Handwashing a Habit’. We all practice daily handwashing habits in that we clean our hands after using the toilet and before and after handling food, but in the care home there are five key moments for staff to practice additional handwashing, as identified by the UK Department of Health:
Practising handwashing at these moments, using appropriate techniques and hand hygiene products, breaks the chain of infection and is a key step in keeping an outbreak of illness such as flu under control. In the spirit of Global Handwashing Day 2016, below are five easy ways that you can encourage staff to adopt thorough, consistent and life-saving handwashing habits in your care home.
For a behaviour to become a habit, there has to be a good reason for it – and handwashing is no different! Create a positive and motivating slogan for your handwashing habits to share among your care home staff, such as ‘We’re practising good handwashing habits to keep our residents safe’, which clearly outlines the impact that hand hygiene will have in your care home and keeps all staff working together towards a shared goal.
There should be no barriers to handwashing in your care home. Ensuring that handwashing areas are always fully stocked with hand cleaning products such as soap and paper towels is essential, and instant hand sanitising products should also be placed throughout the care home at key locations, such as entrances and exits, for on-the-go hand hygiene.
Good hand washing is all in the technique, so consider running a hand washing workshop on Global Handwashing Day to make sure that all staff understand how to thoroughly wash their hands. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has printable handwashing posters that explain proper hand washing procedure - did you know that the duration of time spent hand washing should be the same as singing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice?
To ensure that your care home staff don’t miss key locations or moments for handwashing, place posters or small visual reminders around your care home as prompts. These could be as simple as gold stars to represent a hand washing or sanitising location, or the WHO handwashing posters above sinks to remind your staff about proper technique.
Why not encourage handwashing habits by making it a fun challenge for your staff? You could issue each staff member with their own bottle of handwashing liquid and give a prize to the person who uses up their bottle first – no cheating!
Handwashing for infection control is such an important part of our daily lives that it’s hard to believe that its importance was not always recognised – why not read our post on the grubby history of handwashing, and you may be shocked. Don’t forget to take our hand hygiene quiz too to test your knowledge on handwashing in the care home; will your staff get two thumbs up?
How do you encourage healthy handwashing habits in your care home? Will you be celebrating Global Handwashing Day 2016, and what have you got planned? Share your thoughts with us in a comment below.