Nursing Home Hand Washing Citations on the Rise

Ohio-Nursing-Home-Neglect-Cochran-Firm-OhioProper and frequent hand washing protects nursing home patients from dangerous infections, but studies show that nursing home staff members often do not follow the proper techniques. The Journal of Applied Gerontology analyzed studies from 2000 to 2009. According to their report, nursing home hand washing citations were given to 7.4 percent of nursing homes from 2000 to 2002. The citation rate increased to 12 percent by 2009. According to the JAG, nursing home staff shortages and more inspections caused the citation percentage to increase.

Staff Shortages Create Unsanitary Nursing Home Conditions

In many nursing homes, staff shortages mean fewer staff members must complete more duties. CNAs and nurses rush between tasks and may forget to wash their hands. After helping one patient use the bathroom, they may receive a page that calls them to help a patient who fell. In the midst of the busyness, staff members may not make time to wash their hands properly.

Frequent Inspections Reveal Hand Washing Inadequacies

Additionally, the New York Times reports that the number of nursing home inspections is on the rise as facilities copy with the inspection guidelines written by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. Naturally, more inspections means an increase in finding infractions that may have been previously gone unreported.

Why is Hand Washing Important?

To keep patients safe, proper hand washing techniques must be followed. Improper hand washing spreads dangerous infections, including MRSA and Clostridium difficile. Because most nursing home patients suffer from compromised immune systems and may already be sick, acquiring an infection could prove deadly.

How Nursing Homes Can Comply

Nursing home staff members could potentially wash their hands 100 times a day. The Ohio Department of Health requires nursing home staff to wash their hands in the following situations:

  • before direct contact with residents
  • after handling body substances and contaminated objects
  • before serving food and dispensing medication
  • before and after helping with personal hygiene
  • before and after changing linens
  • after using the toilet
  • after removing gloves
  • at the beginning and end of every shift

The Centers for Disease Control offers a few suggestions for all nursing homes to follow. First, they should provide hand washing training for all caregivers. Additionally, they should assign a manager to oversee and enforce hand washing compliance. These safety guidelines prevent infections from spreading and keep patients, visitors and staff safer.