A helping hand for hand hygiene in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU)

Lead Researchers: Dr Paul O’Connor, NUI Galway; Dr Michael Power, National Clinical Programme for Critical Care, Health Service Executive (HSE)

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The problem

Globally, hundreds of thousands of patients die each year from new infections contracted in healthcare settings. Hand hygiene, which has been in the spotlight due to COVID-19, is an important step to reducing the spread of a wide range of potentially dangerous infections. But it is not always performed effectively. 

The project

HRB-funded research at NUI Galway assessed hand hygiene practices in ICUs in Ireland.

The outcomes
  • ICUs in Ireland generally have the supplies for hand hygiene and staff are aware of its importance in preventing infection
  • ICU staff may overestimate how often they carry out hand hygiene
  • The researchers developed a new toolkit of 21 interventions to help ICUs find the best way to boost effective hand hygiene practices. 

Dr Paul O’Connor, says:

“Although hand hygiene is simple, the related behaviours are complex and not always easy to change, and interventions aimed at improving compliance are often not based on scientific knowledge and may not be that effective.

"By this rigorous analysis of the factors influencing hand hygiene behaviour in ICUs in Ireland, we could develop a toolkit to help ICU staff in Ireland and internationally use approaches to improve hand hygiene and thereby reduce infections, protecting the vulnerable patients in their care.”

'A helping hand for hand hygiene in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) ' is part of a wider collection of success stories across four themes from this year's annual Health Research in Action. Download the full publication

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