Handwashing practice and policy variability when caring for central venous catheters in paediatric intensive care.

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Aust Crit Care, 2006, 19 (1), pp. 15 - 21
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It has been estimated that there may be as many as 150,000 healthcare associated infections (HCAI) in Australia each year, contributing to 7,000 deaths, many of which could be prevented through the implementation of appropriate infection control practices. Contact with contaminated hands is a primary source of HCAI. Intensive care staff have been identified as one of the least adherent groups of health care professionals with handwashing; they are less likely to practise hand antisepsis before invasive procedures than staff working in other patient care specialties. The study examined the self-reported clean and aseptic handwashing practices of nurses working in paediatric intensive care units (PICUs) across Australia and New Zealand, the patterns in variation between nurses' reported handwashing practices and the local policies, and patterns in the duration of procedural handwashing for specific procedures. A survey was undertaken in 2001 in which participating tertiary paediatric hospitals provided copies of their infection control policies pertaining to central venous catheter (CVC) management; five nurses on each unit were asked to provide information in relation to their handwashing practices. Seven hospitals agreed to participate and 30 nurses completed the survey. The study found an enormous level of variation among and between nurses' reported practices and local policies. This variation extended across all aspects of handwashing practices - duration and extent of handwash, type of solution and drying method used. The rigour of handwashing varied according to the procedure undertaken, with some evidence that nurses made their own risk assessments based on the proximity of the procedure to the patient. In conclusion, this study's findings substantiate the need for standardisation of practice in line with the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidelines, including the introduction of alcohol handrub.
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