Health care worker hand contamination at critical moments in outpatient care settings


James Bingham, Ginnie Abell, LeAnne Kienast, Lorie Lerner, Brittney Matuschek, Wanda Mullins, Albert Parker, Nancy Reynolds, Diane Salisbury, Joan Seidel, Elizabeth Young, Jane Kirk


American Journal of Infection Control


Background The delivery of health care in outpatient settings has steadily increased over the past 40 years. The risk of infection in these settings is considered to be low. However, the increasing severity of illness and complexity of care in outpatient settings creates a need to reexamine the transmission of pathogens in this setting. Materials and Methods Seventeen health care workers from 4 wound care facilities were sampled during 46 patient care encounters to determine the presence of health care-associated pathogens (ie, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus, multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter species, and Clostridium difficile) on their hands at key moments of care. Results Health care workers acquired at least 1 pathogen on their hands during 28.3% of all patient care encounters. Hands sampled before a clean or aseptic procedure and hands sampled after body fluid exposure risk were each contaminated in 17.4% of instances. Hand contamination occurred in 19.6% of instances where health care workers wore gloves during care compared with 14.6% when health care workers were ungloved. Conclusions Contamination of health care workers' hands presents a significant risk of pathogen transmission in outpatient settings. Gloving education, hand hygiene solutions at the point of care, and hand hygiene surveillance are important solutions for reducing transmission of pathogenic organisms.



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