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How does hand hygiene policy impact quality of care to patients?
Hand hygiene is vitally important in preventing the spread of infections, both to patients and to healthcare workers themselves. Although it is of self-evident importance when working with highly contagious patients, or during epidemic conditions, it is also indispensable in day-to-day healthcare, as microbes are essentially omnipresent in the environment. Even relatively minor infections can represent a serious threat to already unwell, elderly or immunocompromised patients, so adherence to hand hygiene policy in hospital settings has the potential to save lives and helps prevent further complications such as surgery site infections.
Hand hygiene is also of particular importance in the control of Healthcare Associated Infections (HCAIs) such as MRSA and C. difficile (C. difficile presents a particular problem, as it will not be destroyed by alcohol hand rubs). As these diseases are resistant to many antibiotics, and are therefore difficult to treat, prevention is one of the primary methods in combating them.
In addition to creating a safer environment and better outcomes for patients, this prevention of unnecessary further illness also effectively causes a reduction in health care workers’ workloads, allowing them to more effectively attend the patients that they have. The reduced likelihood of infection of the healthcare workers also aids in the provision of quality patient care in a variety of ways. As workers are less likely to require time off for illness, healthcare services are less likely to find themselves short-staffed, which has obvious benefits. It also means that workers are less likely to be ill while working. Workers who are experiencing symptoms of infection, such as fatigue and headaches, may be more prone to mistakes in their practice, negatively impacting the quality of their care for patients.
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