Current hand hygiene education is suboptimal

David J. Birnbach, Lisa F. Rosen, Maureen Fitzpatrick, Kristopher Arheart, Ruth Everett-Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: To address the low levels of hand hygiene compliance (HHC) at our academic medical centre, we developed an annual patient safety course required for all incoming third-year medical students. Based on previous observations of medical students, it was determined that hand hygiene (HH) would be a central component of the course. Methods: Over a 1-year period (2015/16), we observed third- and fourth-year medical students who had participated in the annual patient safety course entering three intensive care units (ICUs) at two teaching hospitals. A total of 150 medical students failed to perform HH on entry and were subsequently asked why they did not comply. Results: Of the 150 medical students observed entering an ICU without performing HH, 74.7% were male and 25.3% were female. Males cited inadequate time (21.4%), lack of role models (10.7%) and provided incorrect information regarding HH requirements (58.9%). Females cited concerns about dry or cracked skin (34.2%) and forgetting (23.7%). Discussion: Our study demonstrates that even when medical students receive intensive HH education, compliance remains low. Of note, males and females offered different reasons for why they failed to perform HH. To address the suboptimal HHC, we developed an annual patient safety course required for all third-year medical students immediately prior to beginning clinical rotations. In this study, we sought to understand why medical students’ HH remains suboptimal even after an intensive course.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalClinical Teacher
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Review and Exam Preparation


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