Even after a clean hands campaign, less than half of the doctors who participated in an Australian study were found to wash their hands after interacting with potentially infectious patients.
Doctors are still lagging behind nurses when it comes to keeping their hands clean, collaborative research from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and the NSW Clinical Excellence Commission has found.
A series of four landmark studies found that nurses were far better than doctors and other allied health workers in matters of hand hygiene.
The clean hands campaign was conducted between February 2006 and February 2007 and resulted in an overall improvement in hand hygiene. However, improvement was not uniform.
The proportion of nurses who cleaned their hands after patient interaction rose from 54.5 per cent before the campaign, to just over 65 per cent after the end of the programme. During that same period, doctor figures rose from 29.6 per cent to just under 39 per cent. Allied health workers hand hygiene rates went from 40 to 48 per cent.
The findings suggest much more needs to be done to educate doctors and allied health workers about the benefits of clean hands and to empower nurses to initiate change, a UNSW release said.
"Doctors are going to be horrified when they see this data. No doctor thinks 'I'm going to work today to infect my patients'," said study author Mary-Louise McLaws, director of Public Health Programs at UNSW.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified hand hygiene as a key element in reducing rates of hospital acquired infections.