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Hand washing policy (Neonatal Guidelines)

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This Guideline is applicable to ALL staff (clinical and non-clinical) working for GG&C in any setting where babies are cared for. Knowledge and understanding of the principles of hand hygiene outlined in this document are mandatory.

Hand hygiene is the single most important factor for the prevention of nosocomial infection and must become second nature 1

Spread of infection between babies on the unit is mainly due to bacteria on the hands of staff

  • Once you handle a baby or your hands are placed inside an incubator you must assume them to be contaminated
  • Equipment and objects surrounding the baby are also an important source of infection if touched 2
What should I do when entering the unit at the start of my shift or after a break from the unit?

Ensure that you -

  • Remove watches and all jewellery (excluding a plain wedding band)
  • Remove false nails and nail varnish
  • Cover open wounds on your hands
  • Roll up your sleeves if they are covering your forearms
Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water

wash all parts of hands, at least to mid-forearm, for a minimum 15 seconds

  • guidelines for appropriate washing are on the walls near sinks
  • a short mpeg film can be viewed on the infection control website
  • dry with paper towels, for sterile procedure use sterile towel from dressing pack
  • take care not to recontaminate hands on sinks, taps or waste disposal bins (turn off taps with elbows and open bins with foot pedal).
What should I do during my shift?
  • Hand hygiene must be practised-
    • before and after patient contact
    • if hands are removed from the incubator, even temporarily
  • this can be with alcohol gel, unless hands are visibly soiled when soap and water must be used
  • if gloves are worn the same procedures apply; gloves protect you not the patient.


Environmental decontamination
  • Equipment around the neonate is easily contaminated e.g. incubator handles, controls on ventilators, monitors, infusion pumps, USS machine
  • Wiping them with a suitable wipe on leaving the cot-side should become second nature.
Summary points
  • Always perform a full hand wash on entering the unit
  • During a procedure, only touch essential objects to avoid contamination
  • Perform hand hygiene with gel or a hand wash between babies
Editorial Information

Last reviewed: 11 September 2020

Next review: 01 September 2023

Author(s): C. Lilley, Consultant Neonatologist PRM

Co-Author(s): Other Professionals Consulted: Pamela Joannidis - Infection Control Nurse GG&C Women & Children's Division