Clean hands are your health: Working for better hand hygiene at Hospital de Barillas

Hospital de Barillas was one of many hospitals participating in the USAID Maternal Child Survival Program’s Clean Clinic Approach which worked with national ministries of health to develop criteria for water, sanitation, and hygiene. In an effort to meet the program’s criteria and attain its “Clean Clinic” status, Hospital de Barillas formed a committee to focus on improving hand hygiene among hospital staff. The committee, which was comprised of staff from different units around the hospital, began meeting monthly to develop the hand hygiene initiative. After determining that face-to-face interactions would be the best method for communicating with staff about hand washing, the committee arranged 11 “lectures” which started with a refacción – a refreshment that is commonly served before meetings in Guatemala.  As staff members arrived, the committee was able to observe who began eating without first washing their hands, providing the perfect opportunity to start a discussion around hand hygiene practices. The committee used this time with staff to review the steps of handwashing, call attention to critical times when hands should be cleaned, and highlighted the consequences of eating with dirty hands. Signs outlining the steps of handwashing were placed at handwashing stations around the hospital as a reminder and a policy around hand washing was established to help raise awareness. Out of the eleven hospitals in Guatemala working with USAID on the Clean Clinic Approach, Hospital de Barillas advanced from a 7th place ranking to 4th place based on the quality of hand hygiene in the hospital.

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