Not one of us would expect a miner to go underground without the appropriate precautions being taken for his safe transport in and out of the mine. No one would allow a welder to weld without eye protection. Construction workers wouldn’t even consider stepping onto a worksite without safety boots. Why do we not hold those same attitudes about hand hygiene in our health-care practices? We are seeing rates of hand hygiene compliance continually increase in Saskatoon Health Region. This is a positive sign that as point of care staff, we recognize the importance of hand hygiene in protecting the people we care for and ourselves. However, there are attitudes that still need to change to ensure hand hygiene is an acceptable and expected safety precaution. Just as we wouldn’t share needles between patients, we cannot share germs on our hands between patients. In many other industries, ignoring basic safety requirements is grounds for dismissal. Hand hygiene is a basic safety requirement we MUST adhere to every time.

Even though our audit results show improvement, the attitude that ‘I don’t have to clean my hands every time’ is absolutely unacceptable. All the posters, training and plans we make will have no effect on improving patient and staff safety if that attitude doesn’t change.

We’re asking you to take personal responsibility today to make hand hygiene a basic safety requirement on your unit. Use the material we provide you to act as reminders, but go beyond putting up posters and sending your team for training. Insist that hand hygiene is performed every time. Be vocal with your team about it. Set clear expectations. And follow through. As the Region embarks on its stated priority (hoshin) to improve patient and staff safety, we must ensure hand hygiene is at the top of our list and that it becomes a normal part of the care we provide. Without this, we cannot provide safe care to the people we are responsible for…our patients, clients, residents and ourselves.

See the Region’s hand hygiene audit results at www.saskatoonhealthregion.ca/cleanhands.