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Clin Perform Qual Health Care. 1998 Apr-Jun;6(2):70-2.

Handwashing practices in a tertiary-care, pediatric hospital and the effect on an educational program.

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Hospital Nacional de Niños, Dr. Carlos Saénz Herrera, San José, Costa Rica.



To study the frequency of handwashing and the effects of an educational program.


A prospective study.


A tertiary-care, pediatric hospital.


Three divisions (two general pediatric wards and one infectious disease ward). The personnel observed included 60 medical staff (interns, residents, and attending, including consulting, physicians), 37 nurses, and 15 paramedical staff.


The study was carried out in 5 phases: (1) unobtrusive observation to obtain a baseline handwashing rate; (2) observation after written notification; (3) observation after providing motivating devices: movies, brochures, posters; (4) discontinuation of observation and motivation; (5) unobtrusive observation, to obtain a residual handwashing rate.


During this study, 1,123 patient contacts were observed. The baseline handwashing rates before and after patient contact were 52% and 49%, respectively. During phase 2, handwashing rates before and after patient contact increased slightly to 56% and 52%, respectively. During phase 3, rates increased to 74% and 69% (P < .01). However, rates fell during the final phases to 49% and 52%, respectively (P < .01). There were no significant differences among hospital staff in any phase of this study (P > .05).


Constant motivation, using movies, brochures, and posters, transiently increased the frequency of handwashing among the house staff of a tertiary-care facility; however, to be effective, this motivation needs to be sustained.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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