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Factors influencing handwashing behavior of patient care personnel

  • Elaine Larson
    Correspondence
    Reprint requests: Elaine Larson, R.N., Ph.D., Director, Quality Assurance/Research, Nursing Services-RC-36, University Hospital, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195.
    Affiliations
    Schools of Nursing and Public Health and Community Medicine and the Department of Parent and Child Nursing, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA
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  • Marcia Killien
    Affiliations
    Schools of Nursing and Public Health and Community Medicine and the Department of Parent and Child Nursing, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA
    Search for articles by this author
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      Abstract

      Factors that are important in influencing individuals to wash or not wash their hands were studied in 193 health care personnel. The most important factor favoring handwashing (HW) was the prevention of spread of infection among patients; the most important factor against HW was busy-ness. Physicians reported HW significantly less frequently than did nurses (p = 0.04). Individuals who washed infrequently, less than eight times per day, placed significantly more value on detrimental effects of frequent HW on their own skin and on the HW practices of their work colleagues than did individuals who washed frequently, more than 16 times per day (p < 0.005). Frequent and infrequent washers did not differ significantly in their values regarding the factors favoring HW. Identifying factors that are determinants of whether one decides to wash one's hands or not are important in planning intervention strategies to improve practice. It appears that more emphasis should be placed on minimizing deterrents (especially detrimental effects on skin and peer pressure) rather than on emphasizing the importance of HW.
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