Proper hand hygiene is a simple and effective way to prevent the spread of infection. Everyone knows — or should have learned as toddlers — that regular handwashing gets rid of germs, helps keep us from getting sick, and prevents us from spreading germs to others. In other words, it’s a big win for all.
Clean hands are also vital to providing safe patient care. While there are many reasons a significant percentage of healthcare workers across the country do not strictly adhere to hand hygiene protocols 100 percent of the time, when it comes to reminders – messaging matters. That’s why infection prevention professionals and corporate communications teamed up at University Health System to reinforce the “wash your hands more” message in a way that’s engaging and entertaining as well as educational.
The big idea: combine green Crayola Washable Finger Paint with a few staff members and physicians willing to get dirty. Add a communications team with a good sense of what people are willing to watch.
Dr. Jason Bowling, Dr. Theodore Wu, nurse educators and infection control staff members Aprilynn Agpalo, Lorraine Bonilla, Rebecca Rodriguez, Monica Narvaez, Kami Rapp and Annierose Abogadie worked with Internal Communications Manager Sherrie Matthews and videographer Mark Greenberg to develop a video to show how easy it is to spread germs.
To get started, Dr. Bowling dipped his fingers in the green Crayola paint.
In the video he moves from patient interaction to a workroom to shaking a fellow physician’s hand. We watch the green slime being spread from a patient’s room to a computer, to the phone and fellow healthcare professionals. The final scene shows a nurse, who used the same workroom computer as Dr. Bowling, handing a water cup to a patient. The cup is covered in the bright goo.
“The video was a fun, but effective way of showing how easily germs can be transmitted,” said Dr. Bowling, associate professor of infectious diseases at UT Health San Antonio and a University Health System hospital epidemiologist. “We purposely shot scenes where I walked past both hand sanitizer pumps and sinks, to drive home the message.”
You can find the video on the University Health System YouTube channel. It is used internally at employee orientation, new resident orientation and elsewhere across the Health System to ensure all physicians, nurses and staff understand the power to prevent the spread of germs is literally in their hands every day.
The video even went viral, so to speak. Other hospitals and healthcare organizations, including Stonybrook Children’s Hospital in New York City and the Texas Department of State Health Services, have requested to use it to teach their own staff about the importance of hand hygiene. The Joint Commission, which accredits healthcare organizations, also requested that the video be added to its Library of Leading Practices, as a best-practice resource available to its more than 20,000 healthcare organization clients.