Ask the Care Expert ... about handwashing

Sherrie Dornberger, RNC, CDONA, FACDONA, executive director, NADONA
Sherrie Dornberger, RNC, CDONA, FACDONA, executive director, NADONA

Believe it or not, we are having a hard time getting our staff to comply with handwashing. Do you have any suggestions to help us let staff know it is urgent that everyone washes their hands?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over 200,000 people are admitted to the hospital annually with the flu and over 36,000 die of complications. Although it is a mundane task, according to the CDC, handwashing is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of infection. 

To make it work, make handwashing fun! Many companies have videos, posters or catchy campaigns or products to assist you with making it something to look forward to. For example, Glo Germ liquid or powder is a great way to show staff how easily germs are transferred. 

True story: I once put glow-in-the-dark powder on my hands and the pen that I had tied to a clipboard with the sign-in sheet for a program I was teaching on infection prevention. As employees came into the room, I shook lots of hands, brushed something off someone's face and interacted. All the while, they were also signing in with my sabotaged pen. 

After the program started, I turned off the regular light in the room and turned on a black light. EVERYONE in the room was glowing someplace on their body. Some had hands, face, clothing — and many places we won't mention that were glowing! 

From that day forward, I did not have to convince anyone how important washing their hands were to the safety and well-being of themselves, their residents and their loved ones. They witnessed it with their own eyes! 

Good luck, but remember to change it up — we all learn differently, but adding fun is definitely a must.