Background: In 2009, the National Hand Hygiene Initiative (NHHI) was implemented in hospitals across Australia with the aim of improving hand hygiene practices and reducing healthcare-associated infections. Audits conducted post-implementation showed the lowest rates of compliance with hand hygiene practices are among operational staff including hospital cleaners. There is limited information about hand hygiene issues in hospital cleaners to inform development of evidence-based interventions to improve hand hygiene compliance in this group. Aim: This qualitative study was undertaken to explore the attitudes of hospital cleaning staff regarding hand hygiene and the National Hand Hygiene Initiative. Methodology: Focus groups were conducted with 12 cleaning staff at a large Australian hospital implementing the National Hand Hygiene Initiative. Findings: Hospital cleaners recognise the importance of hand hygiene in preventing healthcare-associated infections. Cleaners cite peer support, leadership, and the recognition and reward of those excelling in hand hygiene as strong motivators. Barriers to optimal hand hygiene practice include the presence of multiple conflicting guidelines, hand hygiene “overload” and a lack of contextualised education programs. This exploratory qualitative study reveals three themes about attitudes of hospital cleaning staff towards hand hygiene. These themes are: (1) “The culture of hand hygiene: It’s drummed into us”; (2) “Reminders and promotion for hand hygiene: We just need a big ‘Please wash your hands’ sign”; and (3) “The personal value of hand hygiene: Like he said, it’s second nature to us”. Conclusion: Hand-hygiene messages and training need to be more consistent and contextualised to achieve improvements in hand hygiene practices in hospital cleaning staff in Australia.
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