The Hawthorne Effect hinders accurate hand hygiene observation, study says

June 10, 2016, Association for Professionals in Infection Control

When healthcare providers know they are being watched, they are twice as likely to comply with hand hygiene guidelines. This is in comparison to when healthcare providers do not know someone is watching, according to a new study being presented at the 43rd Annual Conference of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC). This phenomenon—called The Hawthorne Effect—impacts the ability to capture accurate human behavior because individuals modify their actions when they know they are being observed.

The infection prevention department at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, California measured the differences in hand hygiene compliance rates when healthcare workers recognized the observers and when they did not. The study found a difference of more than 30 percent in hand hygiene compliance depending on whether or not they recognized the auditors. "This was not a result that we expected to see," said Nancy Johnson, MSN, CIC, infection prevention manager, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. Infection preventionists validated the audits conducted by hospital volunteers, which showed no difference in the group's observations.

"The level of hand hygiene compliance when staff did not know they were being watched was surprising," said Maricris Niles, MA, infection prevention analyst, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, California. "This study demonstrated to us that hand hygiene observations are influenced by the Hawthorne Effect and that unknown observers should be used to get the most accurate hand hygiene data."

Five nurses (known to staff) and 15 hospital volunteers (unknown to staff) collected 4,640 observations between July 2015 and December 2015. The volunteers were trained in a two-hour course on the importance, identification and reporting of hand .

Nancy Johnson stated that this data was recognized by our leadership. "We have rolled out many changes as a result, including an organization-wide, improvement plan that is actively supported by our leadership team. Moving forward, our monitoring will be conducted by unknown observers."

Explore further: Handwashing gets skipped a third of the time in outpatient healthcare

Related Stories

Handwashing gets skipped a third of the time in outpatient healthcare

April 11, 2016
Despite having policies in place to prevent infections, staff at outpatient care facilities fail to follow recommendations for hand hygiene 37 percent of the time, and for safe injection practices 33 percent of the time, ...

Yuck factor may boost hand hygiene compliance

June 9, 2016
The yuck factor may be an effective tool for boosting hand hygiene compliance among health care workers, according to a study at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Six-step hand-washing technique found most effective for reducing bacteria

April 8, 2016
New research demonstrates that the six-step hand-hygiene technique recommended by the World Health Organization is superior to a three-step method suggested by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in ...

Study measures impact of education, information on hand hygiene compliance

October 29, 2013
How often do you clean your hands? A study at Rhode Island Hospital observed staff on 161,526 occasions to monitor how often they cleaned their hands (ie, hand hygiene) between July 2008 to December 2012 and found that hand ...

Healthcare workers wash hands more often when in presence of peers

September 10, 2014
Nationally, hand hygiene adherence by healthcare workers remains staggeringly low despite its critical importance in infection control. A study in the October issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, the journal ...

Study finds low hand hygiene compliance rates during anesthesia administration

June 30, 2014
Anesthesia providers are missing opportunities to clean their hands during surgical procedures, according to a study published in the July issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, the official publication of the ...

Recommended for you

Novel molecular target to prevent scarring of the lung blood vessels identified

June 13, 2018
Pulmonary arterial hypertension, a severe form of cardiopulmonary disease in which the arteries that transport blood from the heart to the lungs become thickened, constricted, and scarred, is a disease for which there is ...

Fast-acting cholera vaccine could curb outbreaks

June 13, 2018
A tricked-out cholera vaccine starts protecting against the deadly disease within a day, experiments in rabbits suggest. The rapid protection offered by this designer vaccine may one day limit the spread of cholera outbreaks, ...

Lineage of TB traced and compared to early human migration

June 13, 2018
A team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin, the University of Iowa and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health has carried out genetic studies of tuberculosis to learn more about its lineage and to compare it ...

Finally, hope for a syphilis vaccine

June 12, 2018
Despite efforts to eradicate it, syphilis is on the rise. Until now, most health agencies focused on treating infected people and their sex partners but new discoveries may make a vaccine possible, UConn Health researchers ...

How to slow down Ebola—Virologists use 'genetic trees' to evaluate intervention strategies

June 12, 2018
The phylogenetic tree of the 2013-2016 Ebola epidemic doesn't just reveal how the Ebola virus was able to evolve—it also reveals which events and preventive measures accelerated or slowed down its spread. These findings ...

Small children and pregnant women may be underdosed in current malaria regimen

June 12, 2018
Current recommended dosing regimens for the most widely used treatment for uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria may be sub-optimal for the most vulnerable populations of patients, according to a study published this ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.