Introducing a Hand Hygiene Initiative? Follow These 3 Steps to Boost Staff Buy-In

By Madison Pittman

No change initiative will be successful without staff buy-in.

It doesn’t matter how inspired, impactful, or well-researched the initiative is. A hand hygiene initiative that’s projected to significantly decrease healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), improve patient outcomes, and ultimately save millions of dollars will not achieve these goals without active staff engagement

This fact has always been true. And it’s even more true today. Three years into a global pandemic that’s decimated the healthcare workforce and demoralized remaining workers, it would be foolish to introduce a new initiative without carefully considering the impact of any proposed changes on your workforce. Your staff is composed of tired humans with limited bandwidth. They do not have the energy to commit to an initiative that will not measurably improve their lives.

If you want to realize the gains that result from a successful hand hygiene initiative, you need to deliberately cultivate staff buy-in. Here’s how:

Articulate Individual Benefits

In a 2015 article published in the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, Matthew French-Bravo, MSN, RN and Gregory Crow, EdD, RN, wrote, “Nurses carefully evaluate risks versus benefits as they determine how much to personally invest in the latest initiative.”

That one sentence sums up nurses’ pragmatic attitude toward change initiatives. A hand hygiene initiative that disrupts clinical workflow and makes it more difficult for nurses to provide necessary patient care in a timely manner simply won’t garner staff support. Nurses will not commit to any initiative that makes their challenging jobs more difficult – unless they can clearly see the potential benefits. 

Nurses and other healthcare workers care deeply for their patients, but expecting them to shift their hand hygiene habits because “it’s the right thing for patients” won’t garner as much support as you might think. Contrary to widespread belief, nurses are not selfless angels; they’re human beings with limited time and energy. They want to do the right things for their patients, but they also want (and deserve) work/life balance. They’re willing to care for very ill, infectious patients, and they want (and deserve) personal protection so they can be reasonably sure that they won’t unwittingly bring disease home to their families.

To gain staff buy-in, you must be prepared to answer one question: “What’s in it for me?”

Note: The answer to that question should be tailored to the concerns of your staff. If you can explain how an electronic hand hygiene system can improve clinical workflows (thus making it easier for staff to perform their jobs) or improve contact tracing (making it easier to individual staff members to respond to risk of disease), you’re much more likely to garner enthusiastic staff support than if you simply share charts showing projected decreases in HAIs. 

Listen

Your staff understand the daily workings of your healthcare organization in ways you do not. Their questions and concerns should be respectfully considered. You cannot successfully implement a change initiative by outlining the steps of the process and then reprimanding everyone who fails to faithfully implement the steps. 

Overcoming resistance “requires probing and good listening,” according to a 2008 Harvard Business Review article entitled “How to Win the Buy-In: Setting the Stage for Change.

If staff members are concerned that the wearable badge reels associated with your electronic hand hygiene system might somehow track their movements outside the hospital, or interact with other electronic devices … well, that’s valuable information that will almost certainly affect whether staff members wear their badge reels on a regular basis. If you don’t create time and space to listen to staff concerns, you’ll miss multiple opportunities to build relationships and boost staff buy-in. 

Address Staff Concerns 

Open, honest, complete disclosure is essential. You can’t sweep staff members’ concerns under the proverbial rug and expect buy-in. So, if staff are concerned about the wearable components of an electronic hand hygiene system, show them how it works. Explain both the benefits and the limitations of the technology — keeping in mind, of course, their limited time. You can emphasize the ways in which the technology may make their jobs easier, but don’t stretch the truth. 

Clean Hands-Safe Hands adaptive room modes don’t minimize the hassle of gowning and gloving to care for patients in contact isolation, for instance, but the technology doesn’t add to the hassle because the system recognizes that care providers need extra time to perform hand hygiene under those circumstances. It may be helpful for frontline staff to hear from other clinicians who have used and benefited from similar technology. 

Clean Hands-Safe Hands success managers can help you boost staff buy-in by articulating individual benefits, listening to staff members, and addressing concerns.

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