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antiseptic handrub, antiseptic handwash, hand antisepsis, hand disinfecting, handwashing, surgical hand scrub



  1. Bjerke, Nancy B. RN, BSN, MPH, CIC


Handwashing is a fundamental principle and practice in the prevention, control, and reduction of healthcare-acquired infection. Advocated by Semmelweiss (Nursing, The Finest Art: An Illustrated History. St Louis: Mosby; 1985:204) from the 1800s to resolve an obstetric morbidity and mortality occurrence, the simple act of hand cleansing portrays the intuitive benefits to basic hygiene, health continuum, and, most important, disease prevention. According to recently published guidance (MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. October 25, 2002;51:32-34), the term handwashing is replaced by the new term hand hygiene, which includes hand cleansing, hand disinfecting, and surgical hand scrub. This article focuses on the published guidance, blending the salient aspects of hand hygiene practices from noted champions, reinforcing the aesthetics of meticulous cleansing, to guidance on its practice in healthcare settings. In healthcare, the principle of "clean hands are healing hands" bears value and demands compliance in order to prevent and control infectious processes while protecting the person from acquiring infectious diseases.