“Although the regular use of hygienic soap and water hand-washing procedures is the gold standard, the use of alcoholic solutions is effective and safe and deserves more attention, especially in situations in which the hand-washing compliance rate is hampered by architectural problems (lack of sinks) or nursing work overload.” (Zaragoza, Sallés, Gomez, Bayas & Trilla, 1999)
The question that arises with hand-washing is alcohol an “ok” second best solution? The answer is YES! Hand-Washing will always be the best solution and in most ideal situations will be the preventive disease measure taken regularly, but sometimes “we” as nurses just don’t have time.
A real life example:
I was at my Nursing Externship yesterday (June 6, 2012) and my nurse and I had 5 patients who were all on medications at certain times, one had a blood transfusion going, another had constant pain around the clock that needed to be monitored, one patient needed assistance every time they wanted to get up, and then to top it off the last one kept getting sick. As you can see my day was packed, and then mid-afternoon one of the nurses on the floor had a family emergency and had to leave, so we then got two more patients to help cover the floor. I was running around that hospital floor like a” mad-women.” Every patient needed something different, at a different time and on opposite sides of the floor. It was one of the days where I just didn’t feel like I had time.
…And this is where the second best solution comes in. Even if you’re not a nurse like myself and maybe you are a school teacher, a chef, a police officer, or a sales clerk. It’s still important to be performing some type of disease preventing measure to help keep people healthy from the spread of germs. Raka (2010) came up with the solution, “Hand hygiene remains the simplest and the primary measure to prevent Hospital Acquired Infections and reduce spread of multi-drug resistant organisms. Although hand hygiene is a simple measure, the lack of compliance among healthcare workers is problematic worldwide, averaging <40%. In 2002, the CDC recommended the use of alcoholic hand rubs which have the advantage that they can be placed at the bedside. Also, where hand-washing facilities are primitive or scarce, it is often easier to provide a hand rub than sinks with running water and a functioning sewage system. Introduction of alcohol- based hand rub has led to increased hand hygiene compliance among healthcare workers and fewer Hospital Acquired Infections.”
You should always try and make time to wash your hands, but sometimes second best will have to win because the most important thing is staying healthy and stopping the spread of germs.
Raka, L. (2010). Prevention and Control of Hospital-Related Infections in Low and Middle Income Countries. Open Infectious Diseases Journal, 125-131.
Zaragoza, M., Sallés, M., Gomez, J., Bayas, J., & Trilla, A. (1999, July). Handwashing with soap or alcoholic solutions? a randomized clinical trial of its effectiveness. . Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed