Applaud Hospital for Increasing Hand Washing Rates


Target: Dr. Hickson, Senior Vice President for Quality, Safety and Risk Prevention at Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Goal: Applaud hospital for innovative method of reducing infection by increasing hand washing rates

With the complex procedures doctors must perform each day, hand washing as a crucial step to prevent infection for patients becomes lost in the shuffle. Dr. Hickson of Vanderbilt Medical Center realized this when his wife was in the hospital and he observed his colleagues. By employing the help of an epidemiologist and by installing antiseptic gel dispensers at each doorway with reminders to wash up, the hospital progressed from hand washing rates of 58 percent to 97 percent and thus decreased infection by 80 percent.

In order to ensure doctors would feel comfortable with the new conditions, the hospital also installed lotion dispensers and advises to reduce the amount of antiseptic gel used in order to avoid cracked hands. Attempts to increase hand washing rates in the past included classes and surveillance. However, training, communication, and accountability among staff members have been the most successful ways to increase hand washing rates.

Incentives for the hospital staff include part of the premiums from the cost of malpractice. Neglecting to wash up could lead to a polite reminder from an assigned observer on a report card. And refusal could lead to disciplinary action. Some hospitals have wristbands that keep track of hand washing, but Vanderbilt wanted safety to be more of a team effort. As a result, they opted out of a quick tech fix.

With hospitals failing their patients, patients will turn elsewhere. In addition, since Medicare does not cover preventable infections, Vanderbilt Medical Center knew it had to change the rates of regular hand washing. According to the Center for Disease Controls and Prevention, one in twenty-five people will be faced with at least one infection contracted from a hospital. Please praise Dr. Hickson’s proactiveness to prevent infection in patients.


Dear Dr. Hickson,

Thank you for being a catalyst for change in your hospital. The actions you have enacted can decrease risk of infection and encourage hospital staff to treat their patients with care. The thought you and the other hospital staff members put into the project is sure to motivate other hospitals to improve.

People should not have to worry about infection at hospitals while trying to get healthy. Please continue to monitor the hand washing rates of doctors because people’s lives depend on it.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Medical App Journal

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