Hand Hygiene and Hand Washing

Subject: Nursing
Pages: 4
Words: 1283
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: College


In our everyday activities, our hands pass through many places. They touch or feel almost everything that they come around. The places and the activities our hands’ touch include in the toilets, as we remove our shoes, as we play games, among many other places. While several people do not understand this, almost everything that our hands touch contains germs. It is thus very important before putting our hands into our mouths or before eating anything to wash our hands thoroughly with water and soap. By doing this, we keep germs that cause biological contamination at bay. Many people take washing hands to be an ordinary activity that involves pouring water on one’s hands. It is important to ensure that when washing your hands you always use adequate water and soap and ensure every part of your hand until the part where the wrist begins is washed thoroughly. This way the germs which are disease-causing microorganisms’ are washed away and an individual whether a child or an adult will be able to lead a comfortable life free of diseases. Teaching the children the importance of washing hands is important as it not only helps them in their young life but also later in life they can observe similar measures.

Hands washing

Hand washing is most of the time defined as the vigorous rubbing of hands against each other while using water or any liquid. This washing of hands reduces the transient microorganisms from one’s skin (Weston 2008). According to doctors, hand washing is one of the simplest and most effective ways of preventing infections particularly through biological contamination. It is a basic requirement for health care people, families, nurses and other caretakers of people to wash their hands. However, despite the campaigns on the importance of washing hands, some people still do not wash their hands. The reasons which many people put forward as the reasons for their complying with handwashing regulations are lack of equipment, insufficient knowledge among people on the importance of washing hands or complete ignorance.

While anybody can wash his or her hands anyhow, experts insist that proper washing of hands should involve lathering of one’s hands using warm water and soap and then rubbing them vigorously for up to half a minute. By use of detergents, germs that have attached themselves in a person’s hands are washed away (Rosenbaum, E, Dolinger& Rosenbaum. A 2008). Due to the frequency at which people wash their hands, there is a need to use a lotion to avoid the breaking of the skin as this would provide openings for germs entry.

The importance of effective hand hygiene

Our hands are the transporting agents of germs from person to person. On a normal day, our hands can handle feces, body excretions, and other substances which carry germs and thus if we don’t wash our hands thoroughly well, they could carry and also transfer diseases to other people. The first protecting wall against germs and other infections is usually the skin of one’s hands. It is thus very important to ensure that your hands do not have cracks and that they remain clean as germs can easily enter the body through these openings

The most recognized importance of washing one’s hands is that it prevents the individual from getting infected by several diseases such as diarrhea and other communicable diseases. This is due to the reason that after washing hands these germs are usually washed away and thus they never get a chance of contaminating anything that an individual can take especially as food. It is important to note that most of the people who never take it important to wash their hands are usually at high risks of catching diseases such as cold, flu, and also gastrointestinal illness (diseases which are spread through the food we eat). Another importance of washing hands is that it prevents the spread of germs to the people we interact with through touching and holding and also to the places we come into contact with e.g. during food preparation. When one prepares food for other people without washing hands, the germs can be spread to the food leading to stomach problems such as diarrhea or vomiting (Capezuti 2008).

Observation of current hand hygiene practice

My observations were made at a food factory where I observed the food worker’s handwashing practices. The food workers were observed while washing and handling the food substances which they were manufacturing. Some of the activities which were recorded included food preparation, food handling and also handling of equipment. Information was also gathered on the handwashing behaviors which the workers employed.

It was observed that the workers who made attempts to wash their hands were approximately 35% during the whole process. Washing hands by the food workers depended greatly on the activity which was taking place. It was also noted that when the workers had worn gloves, their probability of washing their hands was 20%. In the activities where food was supposed to be handled using gloves, 5% of the workers did not use them. It is worth noting that none of the activities showed a high rate of handwashing among the workers although where there was direct food contact, a higher percentage of the workers washed their hands.

Problems based on observed practice and the literature

Based on the practices above, it was observed that very little few food workers who were using gloves attempted to clean their hands by use of the running water. This was in line with another study conducted by Pragle, Harding, and Mack (2007) in Oregon which found out that people working in a butchery while they handled the meat using gloves, a few of them remembered to wash their hands before putting or after removing the gloves. Another problem that was also observed in the food industry was that some of the employees did not handle food using gloves when it was expected for them to do so. This problem concurred with a study done by Ansari-Lari, Soodbakhsh and Lakzadeh (2009) which found that approximately 2 to 3% in a meat processing factory never used gloves at all when handling meat.

Solutions for the problems identified

The problem about the workers who did not wash their hands can be solved by either sensitizing them on the need and the importance of washing one’s hand before handling food. It should be explained to them that failure to observe safety can lead to infections of the end-users of the food products which the individual is working on. On the other hand, to those workers who used gloves but never washed their hands either before putting or after removing the gloves can be solved by ensuring the workplace is designed in such a way that the workers have to pass through a place where they are required to wash their hands before they are given the gloves. After working using the gloves, the employees should also pass on their way to exit through another place that has running water so that they wash their hands. This would help a great way in avoiding contamination food and also the spread of diseases such as diarrhea which arise due to low cleanliness levels.

The implications of the problems and solutions for nursing practice

The implications of the above problems and proposed solutions to a nursing career are that nurses should keep watch on how people are living and whether they are observing cleanliness standards as required. If they are not, the nurses should take it as their own responsibility to advise the involved people on how to ensure health standards are maintained as they could lead to outbreaks of communicable diseases.

Reference List

Ansari-Lari, M., Soodbakhsh, S., & Lakzadeh. 2009. Knowledge, attitudes and practices of workers on food hygienic practices in meat processing plants in Fars, Iran. The journal of food control. Vol. 21, Iss.3, pp: 260-263.

Capezuti, L., 2008, Evidence-based geriatric nursing protocols for best practice. 3rd Edition. New York: Springer Publishers.

Pragle, A., Harding, A., and Mack, J.2007, Food workers’ perspectives on hand washing behaviors and barriers in the restaurant environment. Journal of Environmental Health, Vol.69, Iss.10, pp: 27-32.

Rosenbaum, E., Dolinger, M., & Rosenbaum. A., 2008, Everyone’s Guide to Cancer Therapy: How Cancer Is Diagnosed, Treated, And Managed Day. Kansas: Andrews McMeel Publishing.

Weston, D., 2008, Infection prevention and control: theory and clinical practice for healthcare professionals. London: Wiley-Interscience.