Infection prevention and control guidelines

2. Hand hygiene

Hand hygiene for patients

      1. Hand hygiene for patients

Last revised: 17 Jun 2024

Hand hygiene for patients

Practices should participate in educating patients on the importance of hand hygiene to prevent healthcare-acquired infections. Strategies include providing alcohol handrub prominently and requesting patient use it on entry, and displaying key messages (eg in posters in waiting and reception areas).

Key messages for patients about hand hygiene include the following:3
  • Hand hygiene is the most important way to reduce our risk of infection – this applies to everyone, including healthcare workers and patients.
  • Alcohol-based handrub does not work properly on dirty hands – wash visibly soiled hands in liquid soap and water.
  • When you wash your hands (with liquid soap and water or with an alcohol-based handrub), the cleansing product must reach all parts of the surface of your hands.
  • You must dry your hands properly after washing soap and water – pat them dry with a clean paper towel.
  • If you use an alcohol-based handrub, keep rubbing your hands until they are dry – there is no need for a towel.
  • Your health professionals should have short, smooth, clean fingernails.
  • It is OK to ask your health professional about whether their hands are clean.

The ‘5 moments for hand hygiene’ reminds patients and staff when to clean their hands to reduce the risk of infection:

  • before touching a patient
  • before a procedure
  • after a procedure or body fluid exposure risk
  • after touching a patient
  • after touching a patient’s surroundings.