Patient hand hygiene practices in surgical patients

Laura L. Ardizzone, Janice Smolowitz, Nancy Kline, Bridgette Thom, Elaine L. Larson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Background: Little is known about the hand hygiene practices of surgical patients. Most of the research has been directed at the health care worker, and this may discount the role that hand hygiene of the surgical patient might play in surgical site infections. Methods: A quasiexperimental, pretest/post-test study was conducted in which patients (n = 72) and nurses (n = 42) were interviewed to examine perceptions and knowledge about patient hand hygiene. Concurrently, observations were conducted to determine whether surgical patients were offered assistance by the nursing staff. Following an initial observation period, nursing staff received an educational session regarding general hand hygiene information and observation results. One month after the education session, patient/nurse dyads were observed for an additional 6 weeks to determine the impact of the educational intervention. Results: Eighty observations, 72 patient interviews, and 42 nurse interviews were completed preintervention, and 83 observations were completed postintervention. In response to the survey, more than half of patients (n = 41, 55%) reported that they were not offered the opportunity to clean their hands, but a majority of the nursing staff reported (n = 25, 60%) that they offered patients the opportunity to clean their hands. Prior to the educational intervention, nursing staff assisted patients in 14 of 81 hand hygiene opportunities. Following the intervention, nursing staff assisted patients 37 out of 83 opportunities (17.3% vs 44.6%, respectively, [χ21 = 13.008, P = .0003]). Conclusion: This study suggests that efforts to increase hand hygiene should be directed toward patients as well as health care workers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)487-491
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Infection Control
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • Educational intervention
  • Inpatient
  • Patient hand washing
  • Postoperative


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