Nurses Day 'hero': passionate hand hygiene champion

April 2015 Vol 15 (2)

Hand hygiene compliance has almost quadrupled in Middlemore Hospital's emergency care department since Debbie Hailstone provided evidence to staff of the bugs lurking on their phones and keyboards.

Debbie HailstoneIt’s not easy to make hand hygiene appealing, but Debbie Hailstone has succeeded in turning the Emergency Care department’s hand hygiene compliance rates from a low 20 per cent to a very respectable 79 per cent.

Hand hygiene compliance in the department is made more complex because of the wide range of staff who come and go, including doctors, nurses, allied health, non-clinical staff, paramedics, students and visitors.

Annie Fogarty, Counties Manukau DHB acute care clinical nurse director, says Hailstone brings passion, enthusiasm and energy into the quality improvement facilitator role for emergency care.

“Her creative and innovative ideas help to reinforce the message that everyone has a part to play in keeping patients safe while [they are] under our care.This includes keeping your hands clean so you’re not spreading germs.”

Fogarty says you will often see Hailstone out on the floor swabbing people’s hands and a range of surfaces, such as phones and computer keyboards, to show them that dirty hands can grow bugs.

These bugs are then grown in Petri dishes, which are on display where staff can see them. This had a huge impact, resulting in a positive shift in attitude and behaviour, says Fogarty.

“What Debbie has helped to create is a culture shift – one where people are actively taking responsibility for ensuring their hand hygiene rates remain at a high level,” she says.

As for Hailstone, it would be fair to say that she loves her job.

“Nothing gives me more satisfaction than making a difference – it’s what motivates me to come to work each day,” she says.

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