Using effective hand hygiene practice to prevent and control infection
Intended for healthcare professionals
Evidence and practice    

Using effective hand hygiene practice to prevent and control infection

Mark Dexter Hillier Course Leader, adult nursing, Nursing and Health Care, School of Health and Community Studies, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, England

Why you should read this article:
  • To learn methods of improving compliance with hand hygiene measures

  • To understand when it is appropriate to use soap or alcohol for hand hygiene

  • To be reminded of the correct technique for undertaking hand hygiene

Decontamination using hand hygiene remains one of the most important and effective methods for reducing healthcare-associated infections and cross-infection between patients. In 1860, Florence Nightingale wrote that nurses should wash their hands frequently throughout the day, demonstrating an early awareness of the effectiveness of this simple procedure. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that effectively applied hand hygiene is a vital intervention that can be used to prevent the spread of disease. This article details the correct procedure required for effective hand hygiene and emphasises the need for nurses to keep up to date with evidence-based guidelines. The article also outlines the differences between hand decontamination using alcohol-based hand gels and soap and water, and the complex factors that can interfere with effective hand hygiene compliance.

Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2020.e11552

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software


Conflict of interest

None declared

Hillier MD (2020) Using effective hand hygiene practice to prevent and control infection. Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2020.e11552

Published online: 27 April 2020

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