Medical Perspectives | Others

July 30, 2021

Medics Editorial Team

From childhood, we are taught to wash our hands before every meal and whenever we have come in contact with anything dirty or unsanitary. The Hungarian obstetrician Ignaz Semmelweis is credited with the discovery of the importance of hand washing in relation to medical practice in 1847.


For medical professionals and healthcare workers, hand hygiene is essential for these reasons:

  • Prevents the spread of bacteria between patients
  • Prevents the occurrence of health care-associated infection (HCAI)
  • Prevents illness
  • Saves lives

When should hand washing be done? The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified these Five Moments for Hand Hygiene:

  • Before patient contact
  • Before aseptic task
  • After bodily fluid exposure
  • After patient contact
  • After contact with patient surroundings

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a longer list of critical times for hand hygiene:

  • 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, animal feed or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

While washing hands may seem to be so elementary, certain measures can go a long way in making hand hygiene a habit amongmedical professionals.

  • Compliance in the work place/hospital/clinic must be consistent and strict
  • Disseminate WHO’s Five Moments for Hand Hygiene and the CDC’s list of critical times for hand washing
  • Put up reminders in strategic places (hand hygiene posters on top of patient’s bed or inside patient’s room, etc)
  • Provide constant reminders through education videos to be played during lectures and meetings of the hospital or clinic or medical school
  • Implement a monitoring system for compliance
  • Create and disseminate quality assessment protocols
  • Provide necessary materials for hand hygiene


Sources & References

Shafer, E. (2014, April). Infection prevention in hospitals: The importance of hand hygiene. Retrieved from


World Health Organization. About SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands. Retrieved from


SingHealth. (2015). Improving Hand Hygiene Compliance Among Doctors. Retrieved from


Webb, J. (2018, May). Handwashing: One Of The Most Important Things You Can Do. Retrieved from


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, September). Show Me the Science - Why Wash Your Hands? Retrieved from

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