Envirolab Group is committed to ensuring a positive culture of health and safety. Since Envirolab took immediate steps in March 2020 to implement hygiene measures compliant with health authorities, the global pandemic, Coronavirus (COVID-19) has continued to impact how we at Envirolab work, learn and interact as a team.
Supporting WHO’s SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands global campaign
Envirolab is proud to join the discussion and be part of the global movement to improve hand hygiene and is supporting the World Health Organization’s (WHO) annual 'SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands' campaign. Its worldwide advocacy day falls annually on the 5th of May. This year the campaign is focused on achieving appropriate hand hygiene action at the point of care. This year’s slogan, ‘seconds save lives – clean your hands!’ reinforces the message that taking a little extra time to practice hand hygiene makes all the difference.
In joining the discussion, we spoke to Natalie Notaras, daughter of Envirolab’s founder and Managing Director, Tania Notaras. As a Registered Nurse (Perioperative Scrub/Scout) at St Vincent’s Public Hospital in Darlinghurst Sydney and her Department’s Clinical Lead in Preventing and Controlling Healthcare – Associated Infections, Natalie provides us with some insight in the next section from the perspective of medical and nursing services about the importance of having good hand hygiene.
The COVID-19 pandemic: some lessons learned
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that hand hygiene has a key role in preventing the spread of COVID-19, and ultimately saving lives.
Hand hygiene can be simply defined as any action of hand cleansing. Hand Hygiene Australia explains it can be achieved in two ways: either applying an alcohol-based handrub to the surface of the hands (either liquids, gels and foams) or by washing hands with water and soap or a soap solution (non-antimicrobial or antimicrobial). When performed correctly, hand hygiene results in a reduction of microorganisms on the hands and is the single most effective action to reduce healthcare-associated infections.
Hand hygiene in healthcare
In nursing, the importance of correct hand hygiene is drilled into our mantra from the earliest days in nursing school and reinforced every day in our workplaces through ongoing education and regular auditing. We work in accordance with the WHO guidelines of Hand Hygiene in Healthcare. We follow the WHO method of “My 5 Moments of Hand Hygiene”. This approach aims to not only protect the patient from acquiring a healthcare associated infection, but also protect the healthcare worker from the patient and thus reducing the potential to spread pathogens and prevent infections around the hospital. In following these “moments,” it's as if we are on autopilot, which is great for our patients and our own health.
While nurses have a solid base of education for hand hygiene, not all medical professionals meet this standard and surprisingly, some of these health professionals don’t practice good hand hygiene. Furthermore, even nurses may forget or simply be unable to safely complete hand hygiene due to urgent or emergency situations. We are only human.
The consequences for not adhering to these proven techniques include the transmission of antimicrobial resistance and increased rates of infection, which may lead to excessively longer hospital stays for patients. This may further escalate physical and emotional stress for the patients, and financial burden for the healthcare system.
Applying hand hygiene in different workplace environments
While the 5 moments of hand hygiene are intended to be followed when caring for a patient in a health care setting, the principles can be adapted for any workplace. For example, it would be wise to perform hand hygiene before and after touching objects and surfaces in shared workspaces which may have a higher risk of contamination. By doing so, you can prevent the transmission of microorganisms present on your hands, and prevent catching a harmful pathogen from someone with infected hands.
Following the principles of good hand hygiene will help reduce the likelihood of getting sick from a communicable disease, ranging from anything to the common cold, gastroenteritis, conjunctivitis, to of course, COVID-19 to name a few. In the workplace, such as a laboratory where chemicals are handled, hand hygiene should also be highlighted as a priority. Poor hand hygiene can lead to the ingestion of chemicals, especially if individuals eat with their bare hands or touch their face/mouth. In a kitchen, parasites such as D. fragilis can be transferred to food if the individual is a carrier and has not practiced good hand hygiene prior to food preparation.
Since the start of the pandemic, I have noticed the increased use of gloves as a means of protection in the community, for example in the supermarket and shopping centres. Gloves are important and should be worn if there is a risk of contamination. For health care workers, this may be blood or body fluids. For someone working in a laboratory, protection may be from chemical exposure.
However, gloves do not provide complete protection against contamination. Microorganisms may gain access to the hands via small defects in the gloves, or by contamination of the hands during glove removal. Moreover, glove use creates a 'false sense of security' for a lot of people who do not understand the way diseases are transmitted in the community.
The problem here is that the gloves may inhibit a person from completing proper hand hygiene. For individuals who are going about their day-to-day lives and for some workplace settings, gloves may in some circumstances be unsuitable and unnecessary. Rather, it is more beneficial for that person to thoroughly wash their hands with soap and water for visibly soiled hands and regularly use alcohol-based hand rubs when hands are visibly clean.
On this WHO Hand Hygiene Day, it is therefore a timely reminder of the importance, the benefits and consequences of thorough hand hygiene.
Natalie Notaras: brief bio
Natalie Notaras is a Registered Nurse (Perioperative Scrub/Scout) at St Vincent's Public Hospital in Darlinghurst, Sydney, and has worked in the following areas of surgery: cardiothoracic, orthopaedic, neurosurgery, vascular (including open and endovascular), plastic, and general surgery (upper GI, breast, colorectal).
She is currently the Departments’ Preventing and Controlling Healthcare – Associated Infections Clinical Lead.
Envirolab extends a special thanks to Natalie who was able to take some time out of her busy schedule to help put together this update.
About World Hand Hygiene Day
Celebrated annually on the 5 May, The SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands global campaign was launched in 2009 and is focused on the importance of improving hand hygiene in health care with World Health Organization (WHO) providing support for these efforts.
The campaign calls to action key stakeholders: health care workers, IPC practitioners, facility managers, policy makers, patients and families, vaccinators, and the general public who can play critical roles to achieve effective hand hygiene action at the point of care. The point of care refers to the place where three elements come together: the patient, the health care worker, and care or treatment involving contact with the patient or their surroundings. The theme, “Achieving hand hygiene at the point of care” is supported in 2021 by the slogan, Seconds save lives – clean your hands!
Additional Resources and Information
The WHO World Hand Hygiene Day 2021 website has more information about the campaign and how to get involved.
The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care also has a range of promotional material available to support implementation of the National Hand Hygiene Initiative in your workplace.
#HandHygiene #CleanYourHands #InfectionPrevention #Education #WorkplaceSafety