Hand Hygiene

How often are healthcare workers cleaning their hands?

July to September 2021 data

Before initial contact

Cleaned hands before initial patient/patient environment contact.

Higher numbers are better.

After contact

Cleaned hands after patient/patient environment contact.

Higher numbers are better.

How do healthcare workers clean their hands?

Healthcare workers clean their hands by using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.

How often should healthcare workers clean their hands?

Studies tell us that, on average, healthcare workers only clean their hands 40% of the time (see the four moments diagram below). This isn’t often enough! The Canadian Patient Safety Institute has set a target of 80% for how often healthcare workers should clean their hands. In Nova Scotia, we would like this to be even higher.

Why is this important?

Properly cleaning your hands is the most important way to prevent patients from getting infections while they are in the hospital. Healthcare workers move from patient to patient and from room to room as they provide care. This movement provides a chance to spread germs that can cause infections.

Sharing this information helps educate everyone that clean hands prevent infections. Knowing how well we are doing can help us set goals to do even better.

How do we measure how often healthcare workers clean their hands?

Trained hospital staff called hand hygiene auditors observe healthcare workers as they go into and then leave a patient environment (room or bedspace). The hand hygiene auditors complete a checklist, of whether the healthcare worker cleaned his or her hands at the right times. The checklist includes the "four moments" when healthcare workers should clean their hands:

The four moments of hand washing.
  • Moment 1: before patient/patient environment contact
  • Moment 2: before aseptic procedure
  • Moment 3: after body fluid exposure risk
  • Moment 4: after patient/patient environment contact

We report on the rates for before initial patient/patient environment contact (Moment 1) and after patient/patient environment contact (Moment 4). Moments 2 and 3 can be more difficult to observe and are therefore not required for public reporting.

What can you do to help?

  • Clean your hands often. Ask for assistance if needed.
  • Ask all healthcare workers who come into your room to clean their hands.
  • Remind your family and visitors that they should clean their hands frequently during their visit.

2013-2015 Trending data

View previously released Hand Hygiene data from January 2013 – March 2015 (PDF).


Read the Protocol for Hand Hygiene Adherence Monitoring in Nova Scotia