No discussion of infection control would be complete without mentioning hand washing — the first line of defense in preventing the spread of rhinovirus, according to Vizvarie.

“Washing hands is the number one thing everybody can do — whether it’s the people doing the cleaning or those who want to reduce their risk of getting sick,” he says. “I recommend that our folks clean their hands several times during a shift.”

Howard Center uses signage in restrooms to encourage proper handwashing practices. Vizvarie recommends people wash their hands for 20 to 30 seconds with hot water to loosen dirt anytime their hands are dirty or they use the restroom.

Hand hygiene is also a major focus at Mercy St. John’s Hospital, Springfield, Missouri, where the most recent environmental services report indicated a 96 percent hand hygiene compliance. 

“I’ve been in the business for 30 years, and from day one, it has been drilled into me that to stop the spread of infection you should wash your hands,” notes Doug Green, director of environmental services.

When cleaning patient rooms, staff at Mercy St. John’s Hospital wear gloves, as well as foam-in and foam-out of every room. Hand sanitizer is also readily available throughout the hospital, if soap and water are not easily accessible.

Everyone on staff should be held accountable for proper hand hygiene, says Green. However, rather than reprimanding or disciplining them for non-compliance, supervisors should educate them on the repercussions of not washing hands.

“As one of our infection prevention doctors comments, ‘We’re not just cleaning a room; we’re saving lives,’” says Green.

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