The infection control team at Northland DHB like to act as a
resource to help staff improve their understanding and performance
of hand hygiene.

Northland District Health Board
Hand hygiene coordinator and gold auditor of the quarter, May 2012

The infection control team at Northland DHB – Ellen (Mo) Atkinson, Sandra Cunningham, and Megan van Boldrik – take a practical approach to delivering the hand hygiene programme within their DHB.

They split the DHB into thirds, taking responsibility for hand hygiene promotion, education and auditing within their own designated areas.

According to Mo Atkinson, Clinical Nurse Specialist at Northland DHB, this approach was taken by the team as a way to increase the focus on hand hygiene throughout the DHB, while providing a more effective and efficient manner in which to manage the hand hygiene portfolio as part of their business as usual work.

“By taking this approach we have built a good understanding of the needs, support and education required on each of our wards. We have also built good relationships with many of the staff, who now know who we are and why we are there,” says Mo.

To ensure wards know about the importance of hand hygiene and how to perform it according to the 5 moments approach, the IPC team develop an education plan for the year and speak to their ward clinical educators to ensure they can get at least one education session on the ward each year.

“We also aim to speak to as many new medical officers and medical students that start working here as possible. We usually get a 10 to 15 minute slot so we cover hand hygiene and the five moments approach,” says Mo.

Posters and signs promoting hand hygiene are visible throughout the DHB, and the IPC team are responsible for ensuring hand rub is always available at the point of care.

“We like to act as a resource to help staff improve their understanding and performance of hand hygiene, so we always try to be positive and show support and encouragement,” says Mo.

When it comes to auditing the team plan and carry it out during the whole audit period, rather than in the final weeks prior to the submission deadline.

“This allows us to fit auditing in with the rest of our work, and provides us with enough time to achieve the required number of moments for our DHB,” says Mo.

Each team member takes a slightly different approach to the management of the auditing process based upon the different wards they are responsible for.

“Because we work with the same wards, we know what times are best to ensure a high level of activity, with lots of moments to observe,” adds Mo. No matter what, when the team audit, they are always very mindful to be completely open and honest about what they are doing and why, emphasising that the audit is anonymous.

But how do Mo and her colleagues address poor hand hygiene performance during an audit?

“We either speak to the IPC link nurse on the ward and request that they address it, or we broach it in a nice way with the healthcare worker, highlighting the risk they pose to their patients if they don’t clean their hands, and asking that they perform hand hygiene,” says Mo.

“Hand hygiene is integral to our infection, prevention and control culture. You need to get hand hygiene right first, because if you don’t do that you are putting patients at risk while caring for them,” she adds.