The World Health Organization (WHO), estimate that over 80,000 deaths annually are because of preventable hand hygiene. In the United States (U.S) alone, health care costs on associated infections range from $29 to $33 billion in the year 2007 (Talaat 2016). The WHO maintains that health care infections ranged from 1.7 to 24 per 100 patients. According to Helder et al. (2010), substantial evidence shows that proper hand hygiene reduces transmission and opportunistic infections by a large margin. Despite this evidence and proven statistics, the direct link between hand hygiene and development in associated healthcare infections is difficult to find in contemporary health care (Mathur et al. 2011). However, WHO, Joint Commission, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognize that hand hygiene remains an important aspect of modern day health practice and intervention. Medical practitioners argue that hand hygiene remains the simplest, effective, and most efficient preventive mechanism of nosomial infections. This paper looks at the relevance of hand hygiene in nursing and health services.
Health Care Delivery
Health care delivery entails the diagnosis, prevention of ailments, injury, mental and physical impairments, and different forms of diseases. It is a service delivered by health care specialists or practitioners in the fields such as physicians, dentistry, pharmacy, tertiary care, optometry, and midwifery. Additionally, public health professionals, health workers, and community specialists provide health based care in centers such as rehabilitative facilities, private and curative centers, among other public health institutions (Randle et al. 2010). The delivery of health care services by trained specialists depends on organizational, political, and cultural aspects of a given facility (Gould et al. 2010).
However, the main aim of delivery care centers by providing therapeutic measures, rehabilitative services, and preventive mechanisms for patients at personal and population-based forums. The value and quantity of health care services are reflected by healthy and improved levels of public and private health of patients. Research and studies in health care services focus on improving and providing the best care services to the personal and public persona (Talaat 2016). Heath care practitioners get the best training and practices with the aim of having the necessary skills and knowledge to take care of health status of patients. In addition to their specialized training, medical practitioners also acquaint themselves with technological knowledge with the aim of keeping abreast with current health information. For example, the application and use of computer aided machines in health facilities aim at giving medical practitioners the best and necessary tools to offer up to date services. Health care delivery requires the best and latest technological applications and knowledge as ailments and health complications arise. It puts them in a better position to handle challenging health conditions.
Nursing falls within the medical practice, but focuses on the care of communities, families, and individuals with the aim of helping them attain recover, and maintain a good healthy lifestyle. In a way, they are care providers and practice in different settings within the health care sector. Nurses work in hand, in hand with physicians, patients, therapists, team affiliates, and the patient’s family members with the aim of coordinating the treatment plan and recovery. Clinical specialists diagnose health conditions, offer medications, among other therapies. Additionally, they may and often harmonize patient care undertaken by other health professionals such as physicians. They are therefore involved directly with the treatment, recovery, and care of patients at all levels within the health care sector.
Marked on the 5th day of March every year, World Hand Hygiene focuses on creating awareness of the need to keep one’s hands clean. According to the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention, hand hygiene is the best and efficient way of keeping opportunistic infections at bay. Keeping the hands clean is an effective way to minimizing the spread of germs, resistant antibiotics, and impossible disease causing bodies. CDC argues that on average healthcare practitioners and nurses clean their hands more than half the time they are within the premises of a health facility. However, the CDC maintains that on the adherence to the practice is poor amongst healthcare providers and nurses (Gould et al. 2010). Despite the ease by which hand washing is taken, Mathur (2011) maintain that most health care practitioners and nurses find adhering to the practice challenging. For satisfactory hand hygiene, occassionally, timely, and efficient use of the alcohol based substance is essential for keeping the hands clean while handling a patient. Regardless of the worldwide campaign and awareness on the need for hand hygiene, caregivers and nurses report adherence to the practice by over 50 percent patient encounters. For example, educators recommend hand washing immediately after interacting with a patient and before communicating with a different patient. According to a study by PLUS ONE, caregivers often give positive feedback and acknowledgment of the need to wash hands. However, the need and desire to do so minimizes during and while handling patients (Pittet et al. 2009).
Relevance of Hand Hygiene& Performance Improvement
Interventions to improve hand washing and hand hygiene has increased over the years with the realization that a significant number of infections and disease transmission occur through hands and by caregivers and nurses. Evidence provided by the CDC shows that infections, reduce by over half in a situation where nurses and health practitioners maintain hand hygiene and observe the practice all through their day-to-day practice within a medical facility. According to Bartram and Cairncross 2010) there is no substantial link between infections and hand hygiene, medical educators, researchers, and practitioners acknowledge that hand hygiene reduces opportunistic infections.
The practice of hand hygiene is relevant within the profession of handling patients since according to Canadian Center for Occupational health and Safety, touching another person with an infected hand can easily spread bacteria and viruses (Sax et al. 2009). Additionally, it is easy to catch on germs by touching a contaminated surface or object and then touching another person or touching one’s face, nose, or eyes. Health care providers and nurses work in unsafe environments that expose them to opportunistic germs. For example, while treating a patient suffering from a respiratory infection, it is very easy to come into contact with an object used by the patient. Alternatively, any object or surface touched by the patient becomes a point of spread for a germ. If a nurse or health care provider gets into contact with the surface and fails to wash the hands immediately, chances of infection are very high (Randle et al. 2010). After attending to a patient or handling a patient’s objects, educators advise hand washing immediately by use of soap then rinsing hands in running water. Educators and proponents of hand washing insist that using gloves should not be taken as a substitute for hand washing. The common cold is highly contagious, and contamination through poor hand washing technique is very high.
According to Allegranzi and Pittet (2009), frequent and exposure to patients and the public, most of the time increases the chances and probability of infection if hand washing is not adhered to and observed. Nurses and health care providers remain the most culpable to these infections as they interact with patients the most. Therefore, hand washing and hygiene should and ought to form part of their routine all the time while attending to patients and the public in general (Helder et al. 2010). Educators emphasize the need to use warm running water. Additionally, hands should be kept in the water while washing for a minimum of 15 seconds or longer if the caregiver handled an obviously suspicious object or direct contact with an immune-compromised patient (Erasmus et al. 2009). While washing the hands, educator’s advice on scrubbing in between the fingers, forearms, and wrists for a period not less than 15 seconds. Scrubbing under the nails is also highly recommended as most germs, and little objects may find their way under the nails. After drying the hands, educators insist on the use of a dryer or towel to dry off the hands (Bartram & Cairncross 2010).
The need to comply and adhere to hand hygiene within the health care sector by medical practitioners is imperative, as it helps reduce the spread of opportunistic infections and keep diseases under control. Additionally, the practice improves performance levels of physicians and the nurses by helping them focus on caring for the patients. The fact that doctors and nurses handle patients directly increases the chances of infections through the hands. If not taken into account while diagnosing and treating a patient, the number and rate of infections would increase amongst medical practitioners and nurses. On the other hand, it means that treating patients and keeping the disease of infection under control would be a challenge within a medical facility.
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Bartram, J.& Cairncross, S. (2010). Hygiene, sanitation, and water: forgotten foundations of health. PLoS Med, 7(11), e1000367.
Erasmus, V. et al. (2009). A Qualitative Exploration of Reasons for Poor Hand Hygiene Among Hospital Workers Lack of Positive Role Models and of Convincing Evidence That Hand Hygiene Prevents Cross-Infection. Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, 30(05), 415-419.
Gould, D. J., Moralejo, D., Drey, N.& Chudleigh, J. H. (2010). Interventions to improve hand hygiene compliance in patient care. The Cochrane Library.
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