Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Patients’ health motivates workers to wash their hands

Date:
August 30, 2011
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Campaigns about hand-washing in hospitals usually try to scare doctors and nurses about personal illness. But new research suggests that this is the wrong kind of warning.

Can changing a single word on a sign motivate doctors and nurses to wash their hands?

Related Articles


Campaigns about hand-washing in hospitals usually try to scare doctors and nurses about personal illness, says Adam Grant, a psychological scientist at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. "Most safety messages are about personal consequences," Grant says. "They tell you to wash your hands so you don't get sick." But his new study, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that this is the wrong kind of warning.

Hand-washing is an eternal problem for hospitals. Healthcare professionals know it's the best way to prevent the spread of germs and diseases. But, on average, they only wash their hands about a third to a half of the time they come into contact with patients and germs.

Grant had done research in hospitals before, on topics like getting nurses to speak up about safety and reducing burnout among doctors. But when his first daughter was born, Grant's attention was drawn to the hospital's signs about hand-washing. "I noticed a real disconnect between what the signs were emphasizing and what I knew as a psychologist," he says.

As a psychologist, Grant knew about "the illusion of invulnerability" -- that most people think they aren't at risk of getting sick. His own research had also shown that people aren't motivated only by avoiding dangers for themselves; they also go to work because they want to protect and promote the well-being of others. The problem was, the signs warned about personal risks. These messages should fall on deaf ears among healthcare professionals, who are frequently exposed to germs but rarely get sick. "If I don't wash my hands, I'll be okay. But patients are a vulnerable group," he says.

To test that, Grant and his coauthor, David Hofmann of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, came up with two signs to post over dispensers for soap and hand sanitizer. One said "Hand hygiene prevents you from catching diseases." The other said "Hand hygiene prevents patients from catching diseases." They posted these signs above different dispensers in a hospital and recorded how often people washed, measuring how much soap and gel was used― and having trained observers spy on their colleagues.

The sign about patients was the winner. Healthcare professionals were much more likely to wash their hands if they were reminded that they were keeping patients safe. The patient sign increased soap and gel use by 33% per dispenser, and healthcare professionals were 10% more likely to wash their hands. The sign about personal risks did no good.

"Our findings challenge prevailing wisdom in the healthcare professions," Grant says, "that the best way to get people to wash their hands is to scare them about their own health. Instead, his research demonstrates, you should remind them that hand-washing helps others.

A lot of interventions work well in the beginning, then drop off, and these studies only lasted two weeks. Grant suggests that future studies should test whether these signs would continue to work in the long term. It might be possible keep the message fresh by changing the signs frequently to mention different patients, or to use different slogans, like "Did you wash your hands? What if your mother was the next patient you saw?" Grant says. The punch line here is that it's not all about me. To motivate people to engage in safety behaviors, we should highlight the consequences for others―not only themselves.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Patients’ health motivates workers to wash their hands." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 August 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110830165013.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2011, August 30). Patients’ health motivates workers to wash their hands. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110830165013.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Patients’ health motivates workers to wash their hands." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110830165013.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) It's hard to resist those delicious but fattening carbs we all crave during the winter months, but there are some ways to stay satisfied without consuming the extra calories. Vanessa Freeman (@VanessaFreeTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) More than 100 motorcyclists hit the road to spread awareness messages about Ebola. Nearly 7,000 people have now died from the virus, almost all of them in west Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins