“If a patient can’t see you washing your hands or using Isagel, then how do they know you did?” asks Donna Jouan-Tapp.

Oncology 6100 has a 95 per cent hand hygiene compliance rate.

As the manager of 6100 Oncology, Jouan-Tapp encourages patients and family members to ask their care providers if they have washed their hands. Four years ago, the unit’s hand hygiene compliance rate was hovering around 60 per cent. Now, monthly hand hygiene audits show that the unit is leading the way in the Region with a 95 per cent compliance rate. Saskatoon Health Region is putting renewed emphasis on proper and consistent hand hygiene, especially at the point of care. Proper hand hygiene is a sure-fire way of preventing the spread of most health-care acquired infections.

“Because our patients are immuno-compromised, anything we can do to aid infection prevention and control benefits and protects them,” explains Jouan Tapp. “We incorporated hand hygiene into our ward orientation, our education days, and even into Releasing Time to Care™. Hand hygiene is an essential part of how we provide care.”

Sue Bollinger, clinical nurse specialist, agrees. “Everyone on the unit needs to know what is expected. Educating patients and their families about hand hygiene empowers them to ask.”

Oncology has two hand hygiene auditors who conduct monthly audits. “Our auditors don’t just observe. They find teaching moments and look for opportunities to reinforce proper hand hygiene,” says Jouan-Tapp. Having that example on the unit makes it easier for staff to talk to one another and even call each other on improper hand hygiene. “Our culture makes it okay for staff to challenge each other. All patients are vulnerable to infections but ours have no immune system, so correcting someone isn’t a professional courtesy, it’s for the good of the patients,” explains Bollinger.

The Oncology Unit’s hand hygiene success began with some ‘home improvements.’ “We gave the unit a facelift,” says Jouan-Tapp, adding everything was taken off the walls which were then cleaned, repaired if cracks needed filling and repainted. “The focus was on cleaning our environment for infection prevention but it went beyond that when we got a sink installed at the entrance to the unit. That sink began acting as a visual cue, connecting the clean unit to clean hands.”

Jouan-Tapp admits that a lack of sinks can be a barrier to performing hand hygiene which is why Isagel is stationed inside and outside every room. “We also took that into consideration when we were designing the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit. Every room has an additional sink right by the door and in the patient’s sightline.”

Overall, Jouan-Tapp says in order to improve hand hygiene, it has to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. “Be persistent, be the broken record. Our ultimate goal is still 100 per cent compliance so we are going to keep talking, keep reminding and keep making sure patients know that it’s okay to ask us if we’ve washed our hands. We want them to ask.”