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Lourdes Hand Hygiene Campaign Combines Education and Enthusiasm to Enhance Patient Safety

Sanitizer PosterIn the U.S., hospital patients get nearly 2 million infections each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).   One of the most important ways to prevent the spread of infection:  Hand hygiene.

With a strong commitment to patient safety and infection prevention, Lourdes Health System decided to engage its employees into a hand hygiene campaign that would combine education with enthusiasm.

“Lourdes is fully committed to hand hygiene and infection prevention,” says Alexander J. Hatala, president and chief executive officer of Lourdes Health System.   “Patient care is at the forefront of what we do.   We deeply support a campaign that educates employees in an effort to help our patients heal and potentially save lives.”

To get started, Lourdes’ Infection Control and Prevention department partnered with the health system’s Marketing department.   “We needed to not only communicate messages to employees about the importance of hand hygiene, but we needed employees to get excited about it,” says Mary Fornek, patient safety officer and corporate director, Infection Prevention and Control at Lourdes.   “Our goal — get employees from all across the health system to embrace hand hygiene, practice it, change behaviors if it wasn’t being practiced properly, and to make it part of their routine.”

The process started with employee participation.   Beginning in May 2013, Lourdes employees were asked to submit a new slogan for the campaign. The prize:  A party for up to 25 people at a Camden Riversharks suite with food provided, as well as the award-winning slogan to be printed on posters, shirts and all written materials about hand hygiene at Lourdes.

More than 100 slogan entries from across the health system poured in.   A first-place winner and a second-place winner were chosen.   Dr. Joseph Ombalsky, hospitalist, Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, won first-place for his slogan, “Bam, Pow, Zap Out Infection! Clean Hands Before and After Every Patient Contact.” Barrie Pawloski, patient relations advocate at Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County, was a close second.  She won second-place for her slogan, “Clean Hands Across Lourdes.”

“It is an honor to win the contest,” says Dr. Ombalsky.   “Hand hygiene before and after patient contact is vital to me as a physician, and to everyone in healthcare.  It’s always been a part of my routine.   Hand hygiene saves lives.   I’m glad to have helped spread such an important message.”

Based on the superhero theme of “Bam, Pow, Zap Out Infection!” The Lourdes Marketing department commissioned an artist to create an illustration of a superhero to match the slogan.   From that, “The Sanitizer,” was born in August 2013.

“The Santizer is Lourdes’ superhero who fights the bad guys, or in this case, the bad germs that cause infection,” says Fornek.  “He protects our patients and fellow employees from sickness. And he serves as a reminder that with proper hand hygiene, we can continue to help patients heal so that they, and all of us, can lead healthy lives.”

The Sanitizer and winning slogan now grace t-shirts and posters placed throughout the health system. What’s more, a life-size Sanitizer resides in the lobbies of Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center and Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County. Similar to a carnival-styled cardboard-cutout, the life-size Sanitizer is missing his face. Employees are asked put to their face in the cutout and have a friend take a photo.

“Ultimately, we are all Sanitizers,” says Fornek. “Each employee plays a role in hand hygiene. We have a big responsibility, because our patients’ lives are in our hands!”

While the slogan, superhero and materials are part of the enthusiasm around the campaign, the core is education, says Fornek. “The best way to improve hand hygiene is education. For example, how long to wash your hands, which soap or alcohol foam to use and what happens when hands are not washed, or are not washed thoroughly enough, or when alcohol foam is not used.”

This fall, the Infection Prevention and Control department at Lourdes is bringing education sessions to locations where employees can easily attend.  Because Lourdes is committed to patient safety, hand hygiene education is mandatory for all its employees. Once sessions are complete, employees will be given fun “man on the street” interviews about hand hygiene and will vie for hand hygiene t-shirts and other giveaways.

Patients and their family members are also asked to be part of the process.   “Research shows that patient participation is a useful strategy for improving hand hygiene,” says Fornek.   “We ask patients and families to talk with their health workers about hand hygiene and infection prevention efforts.   Patients are good allies for us.”

Adds Hatala, “The campaign is a kick-off to an ongoing effort to enhance patient safety.   We really appreciate employees’ openness and enthusiasm.   It creates a positive patient safety climate and demonstrates Lourdes’ commitment to quality.”





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