Infection control- hand washing

Hand washing is extremely important in clinical areas, as it reduces the risk of infections. Infections are caused by organisms which invade the host’s defence mechanisms. Effective hand washing can reduce the risk of infections occurring and protect the client. Patients have a right to be protected from infections and nurses have a duty to safeguard the well being of those patients (King 1998). The NMC code of professional conduct (2004) also states, ‘you should act to identify and minimise the risk to patients and clients’. Therefore protecting the patient is a priority and should be achieved to the highest standard possible.

Washing hands is a vital procedure which should be undertaken after every patient contact (DoH 2001 a). Even brief contact can cause millions of colony forming units to the hand (Gould 1993), thus hand washing being the essence to reduce patients becoming infected. Diagnosis When assisting the client with eating, my hands became visible soiled and therefore had to be washed, as recommended in the nursing times. My hands became visible soiled with food particles and body fluid (saliva), and therefore had to be washed immediately after feeding the client.

Saliva can contain infections which can be transferred from one client to another. Ineffective hand washing techniques can mean that hands are still colonized with bacteria. Planning I had to ensure my hands did not become re-contaminated throughout the washing and drying process. I located the foot operated bin, as this reduced the risk of my hands becoming re-contaminated, as the bins surface can contain micro-organisms. I had removed my watch and all my rings as this could interfere with the hand washing technique (Field et al 1996).

To protect myself and other from infection I cut my nails, as long nails can harbour microbes (Porteous 2002). I also covered my cuts and abrasions with waterproof plasters to ensure my wounds wouldn’t become infected. Implementation I began by using warm water to wet the surface of my hands. I applied soap to the palm of my hand and began rubbing the palms of my hands vigorously. I place the left palm over my right dorsum and rubbed up and down and visa versa. I than placed my hands palm to palm, interlacing the fingers to ensure the backs of my fingers are rubbing with the opposite hand.

The fingertips of both my hands were then rubbed on the palm of the opposite hand to ensure no bacteria were left on the top of my fingers. I grasp the thumb on my left hand and rubbed and rotated it around the palm of my left hand. This procedure repeated with my right hand. Using my left hand I rotated my fingers in a circular motion on the palm of my right hand and gave my wrists a similar rub (Ayliffe et al 1988). I repeated this procedure on my left hand. I rinsed my hands thoroughly and used disposable paper towels to dry my hands.

Drying hands is extremely important as wet hands can acquire infections extremely easily (Patrick et al. 1997). Evaluation I felt the technique used to wash my hands was very simple although it can be very time consuming, especially in a busy environment. Although hand washing it a vital procedure undertaken before and after patient contact it is impossible to see any infected areas left on the hands surface which means infections could be passed from client to client even though hand washing was conducted. Also the procedure of hand washing has to be carefully examined at all stages as re-contamination can occur at any stage.

When I repeat this procedure I will ensure I know the location of all the equipment needed (i. e. soap, paper towel) and was able to conduct these techniques as quick and effectively as possible.

Reference: Dougherty. L , S. Lister 2005, The Royal Marsden hospital of clinical nursing procedures, Sixth edn, Blackwell publishings, Oxford. Jeanes A, 2005, Hand washing, nursing times, 101 (29):28-29 Nursing&midwifery council, 2004, NMC code of profession conduct, United Kingdom Tortora. G, Funke. B, Case. C 2004 Microbiology an introduction, 8th edn, Daryl Fox, San Francisco.

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