I received two different news in my inbox today: A positive and a negative one. The positive story was about an orangutan in Borneo was recently filmed performing hand hygiene in the middle of the jungle. Basically orangutans are starting to imitate humans’ hygiene behaviour. In contrast, the second news in my inbox stated that the healthcare workers, who are supposed to help us when we need it the most, have stopped cleaning their hands. I found it kind of ironic and gave me food for thought. 

The recent study of 77 paramedics in Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Australia as they dealt with 87 patients show that their compliance with hand hygiene standards seems to be “remarkably low”. The paramedics' compliance with basic hygiene guidelines was good having short, clean nails (83%); short hair or tied back (99%) and most of them did not wear jewelry (62%). But when it came to hand hygiene the results was quite the opposite. The study found that many ignored World Health Organization guidelines in five situations when cleansing with soap and water or an antiseptic rub is needed. Instead they chose to wear gloves, suggesting they care more about their own cleanliness than protecting the patients, the study authors said. 

In more than 1,300 instances where cleansing was required, overall compliance was just 15 percent, according to the report published online January 28th in the Emergency Medicine Journal. Interestingly, this is very much in line with what we see in in-patients wards before we activate the Sani nudge system. But when we look at the 5 moments for hand hygiene the results in the ambulance is even worse than at the in-patient wards. When broken down separately by trigger, compliance was just 3% before touching a patient, only 29% after touching the patient and 38% after touching belongings. In comparison, healthcare workers at in-patients wards typically have 14% hand hygiene compliance before touching patients and 16% after touching patients.

When providing healthcare workers at in-patients wards with information, games and challenges through the Sani nudge 5-step process to good hand hygiene we see a doubling and even tripling of their compliance rates!  It is obvious that working at a hospital ward and in an ambulance cannot be compared, yet ensuring focus on hand hygiene and letting staff know if they comply have a proven impact in any setting.

Should we not expect the same to happen to paramedics? Stay tuned!