Professionals agree that proper hand hygiene is one of the most important ways to reduce the spread of infection, which is why Arnprior and District Memorial Hospital and the Grove Nursing Home, in Ontario, Canada, are working to promote patient and staff safety through better hand hygiene. Leading this drive is JoAnne Cunningham, infection promotion control and occupational health co-ordinator at ADMH.

"Health care associated infections are a real and growing safety issue," said Cunningham. "In Canada, one of every nine patients admitted to hospital each year will obtain an infection and more than 8,000 patients will die from those infections."

The organization's volunteers are playing a big role in the education process, greeting visitors and family members and recommending handwashing for those entering and exiting the hospital.

Education for the volunteers, staff and others in the hospital and Grove is ongoing. The training is often being facilitated with the use of Cunningham's glow germ kit, a device that points out germs left on a person's hands even after washing, with the use of a small black box, bottle of solution and a blacklight.

Education sessions also point out the difference between washing with soap and water and using hand sanitizers. It's also important to ensure hands are properly moisturized to prevent cracking. As skin is the body's defense against infection, those with cuts or broken skin on their hands are more susceptible to picking up a virus or infection.

Another common misconception regards the use of antibacterial hand soap, which should be only used once a week or less frequently. These strip the natural, needed bacteria, making the skin more vulnerable, says Cunningham.

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