Objectives To identify the factors that influence the hand hygiene compliance of final year medical students, using a theoretical behavioural framework.
Design Cross-sectional survey assessing self-reported compliance and its behavioural correlates.
Setting Internships of medical students in the Netherlands.
Participants 322 medical students of the Erasmus Medical Center were recruited over a period of 12 months during the Public Health internship, which is the final compulsory internship after an 18-month rotation schedule in all major specialities.
Primary and secondary outcome measures Behavioural factors influencing compliance to hand hygiene guidelines were measured by means of a questionnaire based on the Theory of Planned Behaviour and Social Ecological Models. Multiple linear regression analysis was used to identify the effect of including attitudes, social norms, self-efficacy, knowledge, risk perception and habit on hand hygiene compliance.
Results We included 313 students in the analysis (response rate 97%). The behavioural model explained 40% of the variance in self-reported compliance (adjusted R2=0.40). Hand hygiene compliance was strongly influenced by attitudes (perceived outcomes of preventive actions), self-efficacy (perception of the ability to perform hand hygiene at the clinical ward) and habit, but was not associated with knowledge and risk perception.
Conclusions Targeting medical students’ behaviour should focus on the empowerment of these juniors and provide them with evidence on the health benefits of prevention, rather than increasing their factual knowledge of procedures. Clinical teaching environments could help them form good patient safety habits during this vital phase of their career.