Helpful Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Healthcare

Throughout the world, surveillance and prevention of healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs) have become a greater priority for institutions committed to making healthcare safer. These infections have been associated with prolonged hospital stays, long-term disability, increased resistance of microorganisms to antimicrobials, massive financial burdens, high costs for patients and their families, and excess deaths. One prominent reason for the spread of HCAIs has been poor hand hygiene. In an effort to address this issue, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued guidelines on hand hygiene in healthcare in May 2009. Available at, the guidelines offer a thorough review of evidence as well as specific recommendations to improve hand hygiene practices and reduce transmission of pathogenic microorganisms to patients and healthcare workers (HCWs). “The new WHO guidelines are an extension to recommendations issued by the CDC in 2002,” explains Maryanne McGuckin, ScEd, MT, who was on the task force that created both the WHO and CDC guidelines. “They provide an extensive literature review and inform clinicians on strategies for improvement that have tested successfully.” The WHO guidelines are designed to be used in any setting in which healthcare is delivered. Individual adaptation of the recommendations is encouraged, based on local regulations, settings, needs, and resources. Assessing Practices & Adherence According to the WHO guidelines, understanding hand hygiene practices among HCWs is essential to planning interventions. Adherence by HCWs to recommended procedures has been reported with significant variation, reaching unacceptably poor levels in some cases. Risk factors for poor adherence to hand hygiene recommendations have been well-documented, and there appears to be an inverse relationship between intensity of patient care and adherence to...