Hand washing is one of the key weapons that care home staff can use in the war against infections being transferred through touch.
Done properly, it can help prevent the spread of a wide range of highly unpleasant and dangerous bugs, such as MRSA, C. Diff and influenza.
However, whilst some care homes ensure their staff take hand hygiene seriously, others do not train their staff to properly understand what is involved in effective hand washing.
For example, in one study into how diarrhoea is managed in care homes (1), 3.2% of residential homes reported that none of their staff had been trained in effective hand washing, whilst 11.2% of residential homes and 9.9% of nursing homes said that only some of their staff had been trained.
With 20% of those homes also admitting that staff did not always wear gloves or aprons when caring for residents with diarrhoea, it is clear that many homes are running a significant risk of spreading infection.
Of course, you may well feel confident that all of your staff know how to wash their hands properly, but unless you have carried out proper training with them it might be safe not to make this assumption and run them through the basics.
So how can you train staff to wash their hands effectively?
An easy 10-step approach to effective hand washing
The good news is that training your staff to wash their hands properly is very quick and simple. Just ask them to follow this 10-step approach to thoroughly clean their hands.
1. Wet your hands with warm water
2. Apply enough soap to cover all hand surfaces
3. Rub your hands palm to palm
4. With both hands facing away from you, rub your right palm over the back of your left hand with interlaced fingers and vice versa
5. Rub your hands together palm to palm with interlaced fingers
6. Rub the back of your fingers with the opposing palms
7. Rotate your clasped right palm around your left thumb and vice versa
8. Rub the fingertips of your right hand into your clasped left palm and vice versa
9. Rinse your hands with warm water
10. Using a single disposable towel, dry your hands then use the towel to turn off the faucet
As well as teaching staff this 10-step approach, you should also remind them to wash their hands every time they have helped toilet or wash a patient or when they have been to the toilet themselves.
The duration of hand washing is also important, with experts saying that washing your hands with hot water and soap for the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice should ensure any germs are destroyed.
Once you have trained your care home staff in effective hand washing, you can also put visual reminders at sinks throughout your home. Just click here to see our visual hand washing guide and print it off for use in your care home.
Think about visitors too
Of course, even if all of your staff are already cleaning their hands expertly whenever required, there will still be a risk of diseases being spread through visitors handling touchpoints in your care home.
Only a couple of years ago, research carried out by hygiene experts from Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL) and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) found that faecal bacteria are present on 26% of hands in the UK.
In addition, the research suggested that 11% of the public’s hands are so “grossly contaminated” that they are carrying as many germs as a dirty toilet bowl.
Of course, while some people don’t wash their hands at all, but for many more it can again be down to the fact that they simply don’t know how to wash their hands properly to remove germs.
As such, it is a good idea to put posters about effective hand washing in your care home in visitor toilets and other relevant parts of the premises.
By helping visitors to minimise the risk of spreading disease in your care home, it could not only prevent unnecessary illness, but also save lives.
(1) Henderson HJ, Maddock L, Andrews S et al (2010) How is diarrhoea managed in UK care homes?