Nurses cleaning hands more often

5 May 2016

Kiwi nurses have upped their game, with the latest national statistics showing that nurses are cleaning their hands nearly 85 per cent of the required times.

This is up on 62 per cent four years ago and 50 per cent higher then when the first pilot audits of hand hygiene compliance were carried out in district health boards late last decade.

Hand Hygiene New Zealand (HHNZ) reports that compliance across all health care worker categories continues to improve with compliance now at or above 80 per cent for the third consecutive quarter. This is higher than the international average, with the World Health Organization today marking World Hand Hygiene day by highlighting that around the world only 61 per cent of health workers clean their hands at all the right moments.

Dr Joshua Freeman, the former clinical lead for HHNZ, says DHBs throughout the country have made major improvements in their hand hygiene performance, with national compliance rates increasing from 62 per cent in June 2012 to 81 per cent in March this year.

Nurses and midwives remain amongst the top performers of the Five Moments for Hand Hygiene (see below for details) at 84.5 per cent and doctors amongst the lowest at 75 per cent. Health care assistants met the 'five moments' 78 per cent of the time and allied health professionals 80 per cent of the time. Cleaners and meal staff met the moments 74.3 per cent of the time.

The HHNZ report said the inappropriate use of non-sterile gloves remained a barrier to excellent hand hygiene practice though the trend to better glove use and compliance continued. Two years ago when gloves were taken off 13.4 per cent of hand cleaning moments were missed and when gloves were put on were missed 33.3 per cent of the time. But this has now improved to 8 per cent of hand hygiene opportunities being missed when gloves are taken off and 19.4 per cent when gloves are put on.

Health care workers continue to be most likely to clean their hands after a procedure or risk of body fluid exposure (89.4% compliance) and most likely to forget to clean their hands before touching a patient (76.7 per cent) or after touching a patient's surroundings (76.1 per cent).

For the first time the quarterly HHNZ report include a national breakdown of results in five high risk ward settings with compliance in neonatal intensive care, oncology/haematology and renal wards reaching around 85 per cent, critical care wards averaging around 80 per cent and emergency departments just over 70 per cent.


WHO’s Five moments for hand hygiene:

  • Before patient contact
  • Before a procedure
  • After a procedure or body fluid exposure risk
  • After patient contact
  • After contact with patient surroundings.

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