NORMAN — It’s well known by many: The best way to stop the spread of germs is by keeping hands clean.
With that in mind a year ago, Norman Regional Health System launched a hand hygiene program called “Wash In Wash Out,” an initiative to encourage employees and patients to frequently wash their hands.
Julie Smith, a Norman Regional infection prevention specialist, said the program began as a way to ensure patient safety. With this week’s National Patient Safety Awareness Week, Smith said the program has seen the hospital’s infection rate decrease and employees’ health increase.
The success comes as no surprise to Smith.
“Whenever I was going through nursing school, one of the very first things that they taught us was the appropriate way to wash your hands,” she said. “You would think, ‘OK, really?’ But it is so important that you need to learn the right way.”
The hand-washing program, nicknamed “WIWO” by staff, reminds each person — employees, patients and visitors — to wash their hands with hand sanitizer or soap and water each time upon entering and exiting a patient’s room.
The hospital already had hand sanitizers in each patient room before implementing the program. To improve efficiency and convenience, Smith said the hospital added 500 additional hand-sanitizing units at the three campuses.
Hand-sanitizing units were added to hallways, near elevators, in the operating room suites and in post-anesthesia care units, Smith said.
As reminders, Smith said the hospital put magnets on doors that said “wash in” or “wash out,” allowed employees to wear “WIWO” T-shirts, placed signs throughout the hospital and provided personal hand sanitizers and information fliers to patients.
Smith said the hope is that every employee is washing in, washing out 100 percent of the time. Though the program is simple, she said if executed properly, it can help stop the spread of germs from patient to patient.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests hand-washing at these times: before, during and after preparing food; before eating food; before and after caring for someone who is sick; before and after treating a cut or wound; after using the toilet; after changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet; after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing; after touching an animal or animal waste; after handling pet food or pet treats; and after touching garbage.
National Patient Safety Awareness Week is an annual education and awareness campaign for health care safety led by National Patient Safety Foundation. For more information visit www.npsf.org.