Hospital workers wash their hands more when they're watched

Worrying findings show lack of hygeine among some staff

Hospital Workers Wash Their Hands More When Watched

Hospital workers should be washing their hands all the time to prevent the spread of infection, but new research has found that this isn't necessarily the case.

According to a press release issued by the US Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, healthcare staff are two times more likely to follow hand hygiene protocols when "they know they are being watched."

See also: Scientists warn of 'extremely worrying' effect of new superbugs

See also: Restaurants sued for failures over health and safety

This shift is attributed to the Hawthorne Effect where humans act differently because of outside observers.

The study took place at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in California during the latter half of 2015. It involved a team of auditors, which included "five infection prevention nurses known to staff and 15 hospital volunteers unknown to staff."

After more than 4,600 logged observations, researchers found that the nurses' records reflected a 57 percent compliance rate while the volunteers had just 22 percent.

In fact, one of the participating nurses told ABC News that when personnel saw her coming, they would "bend over backwards to lather up."

As a result of the experiment, the medical center has instituted "an organisation-wide, hand hygiene improvement plan."