Keep your patients safe, as well as yourself, your friends, and your family
One important thing we learn in nursing school is that clean hands can help prevent the spreading of infection. We also learn that there is more to hand-washing than just running your hands under the faucet.
The Centers for Disease Control publishes guidelines on effective handwashing and handrubbing. These are important to review whether you are a nursing assistant student, a practical nurse, just starting out on the job, or a seasoned nurse who’s been working for years.
Take a moment to review!
1. When to Use Soap versus Handrub
- If your hands are visibly dirty, contaminated, or soiled, you should use soap and water.
- If your hands are not visibly dirty, you should use an alcohol-based handrub.
2. When to Wash Your Hands
- Before coming into direct contact with a patient
- Before putting on gloves, if you are inserting something invasive such as a catheter
- After you have contact with a patient’s skin, even when skin is intact
- After you have contact with a patient’s excretions, fluids, broken skin, or wound dressings
- After you take off your gloves
3. How to Wash Your Hands with Handrub
- Read the container to see the amount recommended by the manufacturer. Dispense that amount in your palm.
- Rub your hands together, and be sure that you cover the entire surface of your hands and fingers while rubbing.
- Keep rubbing until your hands are dry. This is very important for the effectiveness of the handrub.
4. How to Wash Your Hands with Soap and Water
- Turn on the faucet and wet both your hands and your forearms.
- Look at the soap container, and apply the amount recommended by the manufacturer to the palm of one hand.
- Rub your hands together, making sure to cover the entire surface of your hands, fingers, and forearms. Keep rubbing for at least 15 seconds. This is important for the effectiveness of the soap.
- Rinse thoroughly with water.
- Dry carefully using a sanitary disposable towel.
- Use the towel to turn off the faucet and dispose of towel.
5. When To Wear Gloves
- Wear gloves when you have contact with blood or other bodily fluids, in accordance with universal/standard precautions.
- After caring for a patient, remove and dispose of gloves properly.
- Never wear the same pair of gloves to care for more than one patient.
- Do not wash gloves.
6. A Word About Fingernails
- Keep your fingernails (artificial or natural) to about ¼ inch in length or shorter.
- If you work with high-risk patients, do not wear artificial nails.
These hand hygiene recommendations come from the CDC’s hand hygiene webpage and the article “Guideline for Hand Hygiene in Health-care Settings. MMWR 2002; vol. 51, no. RR-16.” If you want further information about hand hygiene, or teaching PDFs for download, you can use the CDC’s hand hygiene resources.
The Salter School of Nursing and Allied Health is proud to provide public education articles in its weekly blog. Located in Manchester, New Hampshire, our school trains students to become Licensed Nursing Assistants, Patient Care Technicians, and Practical Nurses. If you want to learn more about our programs, contact us at anytime. We can’t wait to hear from you!