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STUDY: Poor Hand Hygiene Among Nursing Home Staff Tied to Low Staffing Levels

September 6, 2012

Hand hygiene is stronger in nursing homes with higher staffing levels of nurse aides, licensed practical nurses, and registered nurses, according to a study published last month in the Journal of Applied Gerontology.

In the study, researchers tracked several factors to see if they correlated with hand-hygiene deficiency citations in nursing homes.

In facilities with low staffing levels, “caregivers are likely hurried, and may not have the time to use appropriate [hand-hygiene] techniques,” the study’s authors note.

Good hand hygiene has been proven to reduce the spread of communicable diseases.

Training Needed

Unfortunately, staffing levels in nursing homes are unlikely to improve in the near future, the authors write, owing to the “current inhospitable financial and reimbursement climate” in which they operate.

One way nursing homes can improve hand hygiene without boosting staffing levels, the authors suggest, is to offer hand hygiene-specific training — particularly for nurse aides, who provide up to 90 percent of the hands-on care.

The authors also suggest greater internal attentiveness to the issue of hand hygiene in nursing homes, through strongly enforced institutional policies and frequent internal quality improvement audits.

Staffing Levels Associated with Care Quality

Past research has linked direct-care worker staffing levels in nursing homes with other care-quality indicators.

A study published earlier this summer in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, for example, found that higher staffing levels of certified nursing assistants (CNAs) resulted in fewer resident falls.

The hand-hygiene study was led by Nicholas Castle, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Health Policy & Management.

– by Matthew Ozga

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