Study: Hospital workers wash hands less frequently toward shift end

Patient Safety Monitor Insider

November 12, 2014

Hospital workers who deal directly with patients wash their hands less frequently as their workday progresses, probably because the demands of the job deplete the mental reserves they need to follow rules, according to new research published in the journal Infection Control Today.

According to the report, which follows a study done by the American Psychological Association, handwashing compliance dropped by almost 9 percent from the start of a 12-hour shift to the end of the shift. Researchers followed 4,157 caregivers in 35 hospitals over a three-year period for the study.

According to the report, the decline in compliance can be compared to the fatigue of muscles by repeated use over time. More time off between shifts appeared to restore the workers’ compliance levels—they followed handwashing protocol more carefully after longer breaks, the study found.