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Emotional motivators might improve hand hygiene among healthcare workers

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 28 July 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h3968
  1. Layla McCay, secretariat director, Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing, 1825 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008, USA
  1. laylamccay{at}

Campaigns that use feelings such as disgust might help to reduce healthcare associated infection better than rational campaigns that teach infection prevention, writes Layla McCay

Something about articles on hand hygiene in healthcare tempts us to turn the page. Hand hygiene: that bastion of infection control, inspiration for a thousand dog-eared posters proclaiming the critical moments, creator of chapped hands, consumer of time that could otherwise be spent with patients, general guilt inducer.

We know this. We all learnt the importance of hand hygiene back in medical or nursing school. We all sat through the mandatory training and read the hospital policies. We recognise that globally 5-15% of hospital patients acquire a healthcare associated infection during their stay.1 We have seen the studies: healthcare associated infections are being transmitted on the hands of healthcare workers all the time, whether we are measuring blood pressure,2 moving around the patient area,3 or handling fluid secretions.4 We know all about hand hygiene.

Not sufficient to drive action

And yet, we also know that our knowledge is not sufficient to drive action. Worldwide, health …

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