The seven step guide to hand washing

Handwashing has been a key infection fighting weapon in the healthcare professionals’ arsenal since the days of Florence Nightingale – but it’s never been in the public awareness like now.

Keeping hands clean is one of the simplest, yet most important steps you can take to prevent the spreading of bacteria and viruses like Coronavirus to your patients, your colleagues and yourself.

The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) states that one in 16 people being treated by the NHS pick up a healthcare acquired infection. Whether you are caring for patients in hospital or the community, the seven-step guide to hand-washing should always be followed.

Getting started

Remove any rings, wrist watches or other jewellery as bacteria underneath can easily be missed.  Wet your hands under warm, running water and dispense soap into your cupped hands, leaving the tap running. Hand washing should take 40-60 seconds.

Seven step guide to washing your hands

  1. Rub palms together
  2. Rub the backs of both hands with the opposite palm
  3. Interlace fingers and rub palms together
  4. Interlock fingers and rub the backs of fingers of both hands
  5. Rub thumb in a rotating manner followed by the area between index finger and thumb for both hands
  6. Rub fingertips on palm for both hand
  7. Rub both wrists in a rotating manner

Dry your hands with a disposable paper towel and use this to turn off the tap. Now your hands are clean and free from bacteria and viruses.

Handwashing with soap and water is always best but if running water is not available alcohol hand rub, gel or foam should be used. The same steps should be followed as above.

When to perform hand hygiene

  • Before and after patient contact
  • Before and after donning personal protective equipment
  • After touching patient surroundings or belongings
  • Before giving the patient food or drinks
  • Before eating
  • After using the toilet
  • After coughing or sneezing
  • After using a disposable tissue
  • When you start and finish work, or come back from a break

Remember to take care of your skin – dry skin can harbour bacteria, and cause discomfort. Constant hand hygiene practice is essential but can be harsh on your skin, so use hand cream regularly to prevent skin irritation.

And just in case you’re wondering how much difference an extra few seconds really makes, have a look at this UV light experiment…

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