Alcohol Kills Germs

A few weeks ago I received the information below from my hospital administration.

Disinfecting with alcohol

Cleaning hands by washing has become a thing of the past. Nowadays, every household has an anti-bacterial dispenser that has been proven to be better than any hand washing—and the ones in the hospitals are even stronger. Although these practices have been commonplace for years with soap and water washing, the advance of disinfecting hands with alcohol-based solutions has certainly aided in the ease of performing this task and reducing infections in the hospital. But this is nothing new! Years ago, all surgeons and nurses would place their hands in vats of alcohol before entering the operating room. Alcohol will, of course, dry your hands, and it was at the behest of Mrs. Halsted, the wife and nurse of the famous father of American surgery in Baltimore, Dr. Halsted, that the vats were replaced with rubber gloves and soap and water—she had terribly chapped hands from the dryness.

Here is what the hospital said:

Hygiene campaign modeled on research by the Joint Commission.

Hand Hygiene Champions on each unit will regularly monitor the hand-washing behavior of

nurses, physicians, techs, and environmental and food service workers. The data they collect will

allow us to measure our progress as we identify and address hand-washing barriers and improve

adherence to our “wash in, wash out” maxim.

So, what is the best practice for hand hygiene?

  • Use antiseptic foam when entering and leaving a patient’s room or patient care area, even if you don’t touch the patient.
  • If you are evaluating more than one patient in a room, use the foam before and after each patient.
  • Foam before putting on gloves (so you don’t contaminate the outside of the glove).
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 15 seconds after seeing a patient with C. difficile (don’t blame your diarrhea on the cafeteria food!).
  • Keep your nails to a quarter-inch or shorter; keep nail beds and wrists clean.

Remember, practicing good hand hygiene is the single most important action we can take to prevent the spread of pathogens that lead to infection. We encourage you to renew your focus on your own hand hygiene practices, and encourage your peers as well. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns.

before alcohol

Before Alcohol

after alcohol

After Alcohol

An imprint of a healthcare worker’s ungloved hand was obtained after routine abdominal examination of a patient with no history of MRSA infection but found to have MRSA colonization. Second hand imprint obtained after the worker’s hand had been cleaned with alcohol-based hand rub was negative for MRSA. (MRSA refers to methicillin resistant staphylococcus areaus- a tough bacteria to get rid of.)

What do you think?