11 September 2013

A survey of nursing students in the UK, in a study conducted by Cardiff University and City University, London, has revealed commonplace lapses in infection control, including the use of nail extensions, failing to wash hands between patients and poor handling of sharp instruments.

The researchers conducted an anonymous online survey among nursing students to identify how often they witnessed a range of possible lapses in infection prevention and control during their clinical practicums.

All the student nurses surveyed observed lapses in infection prevention and control practices during their clinical placements, according to the study, which was published in the September issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.

Each of the 488 students who completed the 19-question survey reported witnessing at least one instance of non-compliance, with the most frequently observed events relating to hand hygiene.

More than 75% of the 488 respondents saw healthcare workers fail to clean hands between patients, and 60% saw healthcare workers wearing nail polish or nail extensions. Other lapses observed by more than half of survey respondents included:

  • failure to comply with isolation precautions

  • inadequate cleaning of the patient environment

  • not changing personal protective clothing between patients

  • poor handling of sharp instruments.

The students commented most often about the poor habits of physicians, specifically with regard to hand hygiene, handling and disposal of sharp instruments, and failure to use sterile techniques during insertion of medical devices. All occupational groups were criticised for touching the face, biting nails, and scratching during patient care.

Commenting on the survey, the authors of the survey said, “Overall, the findings support the conclusions of earlier researchers… Qualified staff provided poor role models for student nurses.”