Encouraging patient hand hygiene in the Operating Suite to reduce postoperative wound infection risk

Angela Cairney, Emily Cutting, Cathy Smith

1THS -North West, Latrobe, Australia


The importance of hand hygiene to reduce spread of infection has been highlighted in the COVID 19 pandemic response which has increased the focus on hand hygiene of staff, patients, and visitors in hospitals. Whilst staff hand hygiene practice is important in preventing hospital acquired infections ₁ following attendance at a recent ACORN Webinar on preventing surgical site infections and the perioperative nurses’ role, some nurses from the Mersey Community Hospital’s (MCH) Operating Suite reflected that patients may contaminate their wound post surgery by touching wound dressings or the wound which can increase infection risk ₂. A quality improvement project was initiated to encourage hand hygiene pre surgery to reduce the risk of wound site infection post surgery.

An information poster was developed with input from the MCH Operating Suite team for display in the holding bays outlining the process of pre-surgery checks and procedures. Included is the offering of hand hygiene i.e. using antimicrobial gel, before the patient enters the operating room.

A two month trial of the poster and offering of hand hygiene began in June 2021. Evaluation will include patient participation rates, patient feedback and staff feedback. Evaluation of any changes in hospital acquired infection rates was considered, however would be challenging as there is no long-term follow-up after discharge of day surgery cases. Hospital readmissions and patient complaints will therefore be monitored for any changes in trends.

This hand hygiene initiative evidences front-line Nurses’ passion and potential to reduce hospital acquired infections for care excellence.

Reference list:

  1. Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare (ACSQHC), National Hand Hygiene Initiative, sourced 3/6/21: https://www.safetyandquality.gov.au/our-work/infection-prevention-and-control/national-hand-hygiene-initiative
  2. Graves, P (2020) ACORN Webinar -Surgical Stewardship: The Perioperative Nurse’s Role in Preventing Surgical Site Infections, October 2020.


Tartari, E. et al (2017) Patient engagement with surgical site infection prevention: an expert panel perspective. BioMed Central, DOI 10.1186/s 13756-017-0202-3, pp. 1-9.

Srigley, J.A, et al (2016) Interventions to improve patient hand hygiene: a systematic review, Journal of Hospital Infection, 94, pp. 23-29.

Chadwick, C. (2019) Infection Control 4: good hand-hygiene for hospital patients, Nursing Times, Sept., vol. 115, issue 9, pp. 27-29.

Haverstick S., et al (2017) Patients’ Hand Washing and Reducing Hospital-Acquired Infection, CriticalCareNurse, June, vol. 37, no.3, pp. e1-e8.

NHMRC (2019) Australian Guidelines for the Prevention and Control of Infection in Healthcare, National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Aus. Govt., Aus.


Angela Cairney is a Registered Nurse who works in the Operating Suite at the Mersey Community Hospital.  Emily Cutting is a Grade 4 Clinical Nurse with the Perioperative Infection Control Portfolio in the  Operating Suite at the Mersey Community Hospital.

Cathy Smith is a Grade 6 Project Nurse – Strategic Support and Innovation and provides support to the Nursing Division across the THS – North West to progress quality improvement initiatives.