In part one, we explored the importance of hand hygiene, specifically in the hospital arenas. In part two, we explored Germophobia and how hand hygiene can greatly impact an individual. Then, I seemed to go off on a tangent with mindfulness in the workplace.

You might be asking yourself how mindfulness can possibly be connected to hand washing. At first, I was in the same boat.

It just so happened that I spent the last week at the Healthcare Infection Transmission Systems Consortium (HITS) learning all about infection prevention and the things that are in our control when it comes to healthcare protection. Keep in mind, this is after I posted the previous articles about hand washing and mindfulness. Do you want to know what the very first speaker discussed?

That’s right. Hand hygiene and mindfulness.

Dr. Sanjay Saint delivered a powerful presentation aimed at leadership, mentorship, and followership in the healthcare arena. He started out with the technical details, like most individuals in attendance appreciated, such as how 3-10% of hospital admitted patients develop infections, of which 50% are preventable. You want to know the best way to prevent hospital infection?

Hand hygiene.

So why is the median compliance still at 40%? Sadly, most of this number comes because doctors, nurses, and other individuals in the hospital room are disinfecting their hands AFTER dealing with the patient. Self-preservation at its finest…

Dr. Saint then posed a question: If the technical data isn’t enough to convince people to follow hand hygiene standards, how can you make sure people follow?

The answer is in the presentation title: Leadership. This is more than just stating technical facts – leadership in the healthcare industry needs to turn to an adaptive strategy. Put simply, leadership needs to find individuals to follow hand hygiene standards, but followership starts at the top. Leadership needs to change behavior, across the entire organization, by changing the culture and prioritizing the behaviors.

We could go into a list of leadership styles and what makes a good leader, but I’ll leave that to another post. For now, to change behavior in a high-stress, high-activity environment such as hospital care, leadership has to cater to the position.

Leadership needs to change behavior, across the entire organization, by changing the culture and prioritizing the behaviors.

The benefits of mindfulness are tied to what you put into it. As a nurse, doctor, or other medical staff in a hospital, finding time to apply mindfulness is nearly impossible. So, Dr. Saint has presented a connection of mindfulness and hand hygiene to solve the problem of preventable healthcare transmitted infection.

If you recall in the mindfulness post, I discussed triggers as a method for adding mindfulness into your day. Well, Dr. Saint has encouraged the same behavior, establishing hand hygiene as the trigger for mindfulness. Focusing on breathing and disinfecting their hands gives healthcare workers a moment of simplicity while also tackling one of the easiest habits of reducing hospital infections.

Brief mindfulness practices in the hospital environment, especially when tied to a frequent activity like hand washing, can also benefit more than just infection prevention. Moments of mindfulness can also translate to patients and interactions with others. Taking a moment to clear your mind, focus on the patient, and present your best self are simple ways to slow down in the hectic and stressful day.

Leadership starts by setting a culture of mindfulness to allow healthcare workers to feel empowered in this behavior. Next, leaders prioritize hand hygiene and communicate that to their employees. To create followership – individuals willing to buy in and change their behavior – leadership needs to set the standard, starting with themselves. Small changes of mindfulness can have a positive ripple effect throughout the entire organization. Changing one small habit will create a culture of more positive behaviors.

-Laura