Hamilton Health Sciences
Achieving excellence in care, research & education

Hand Hygiene

What is hand hygiene?

Hand hygiene is the action of cleaning hands. There are two ways to clean hands. Using an alcohol based hand rub, which kills organisms in seconds or, when hands are visibly soiled, using soap and running water.

Why is hand hygiene so important?

Hand hygiene is an important practice for health care providers and has a significant impact on reducing the spread of infections in hospitals. Hand hygiene is a different way of thinking about safety and patient care and involves everyone in the hospital, including patients and health care providers.

Effective hand hygiene practices in hospitals play a key role in improving patient and provider safety, and in preventing the spread of health care-associated infections. 

Why are hand hygiene rates being publicly reported?

The single most common way of transferring health care-associated infections in a health care setting is on the hands of health care providers. Health care providers move from patient to patient and room to room while providing care and working in the patient environment. This movement provides many opportunities for the transmission of organisms on hands that can cause infections. Monitoring hand hygiene practices is vital to improving rates and, in turn, reducing health care-associated infections.

How are hand hygiene rates calculated?


Before Initial Patient/Patient Environment Contact :


# of times hand hygiene performed before initial patient/patient environment contact

 _______________________________________ _______________________________         X 100

#observed hand hygiene indications before initial patient/patient environment contact



 After Patient/Patient Environment Contact :


# of times hand hygiene performed after patient/pt environment contact

  __________________________________________________________________    X100

#observed hand hygiene indications after patient/patient environment contact


Healthcare workers are washing their hands, but we want to continue to do it better, as we learn more about hand hygiene best practices.

Hand hygiene rates will be reported annually because behavioural and cultural change takes time. Therefore reporting hand hygiene rates more regularly than annually may not produce results that will indicate significant change or an impact on hand hygiene practices.



 What are we doing to improve Hand Hygiene and patient safety at Hamilton Health Sciences?

Patient safety remains the most important priority for our hospital; this involves ensuring the patients are not at risk for contracting healthcare associated infections.  We have a number of practices in place to prevent and control infections, including a comprehensive hand hygiene program. Two parts of that program include:


  • The government's "Just Clean Your Hands" Campaign - this is an evidence based, multi faceted hand hygiene program to support hand hygiene improvements in hospitals.  It helps hospitals and individuals overcome barriers to proper hand hygiene, such as ensuring fast and easy access to alcohol based hand rubs at patient bedsides and staff education programs.

  • Hand hygiene involves everyone in the hospital, including patients and families.  Hand cleaning is one of the best ways you and your health care team can prevent the spread of many infections.  Planned for later this year at HHS, will be the implementation the Ontario Hospital Association hand hygiene program "Clean Hands- Saves Lives". This campaign supports patients and families in a hand hygiene program.

 Hand Hygiene Fact Sheet

Hamilton Health Sciences • Hamilton, Ontario • 905.521.2100

Disclaimer: Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) offers Google Translate to better facilitate access for our community. However, HHS makes no claims regarding the accuracy of translations. Any and all health information should be verified by a health care professional.