A study into infection prevention and control has found university education for nursing students can have a significant impact on hand hygiene practices in clinical settings.

Dr Peta-Anne Zimmerman, Infection prevention and control

Dr Peta-Anne Zimmerman, Infection prevention and control

This is according to award-winning research from Griffith’s Menzies Health Institute Queensland.

The Griffith pilot study explored the challenges facing students in clinical environments specifically relating to influencers on infection prevention and control (IPC) practises, such as hand hygiene.

Best International Abstract Award

The study was selected as the winner of the Best International Abstract Award at the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) 2016 Annual Conference in North Carolina.

Approximately 200 undergraduate nursing students were surveyed with 52% of them saying that they would ignore poor practice in the clinical environment and perform hand hygiene as they had been instructed at university.

Meanwhile 41.5% indicated they would attempt to correct poor practice in others while a small percentage (7.7%) of senior students indicated that they would comply with poor practice, where none of the junior group indicated this. This aspect is currently being explored further.

“The good news is that the majority (97.5%) of students reported being positively influenced by their university education when it came to infection control practice, with 89.7% saying they were influenced by the good practice of their clinical mentors,” says lead researcher Dr Peta-Anne Zimmerman.

The abstract is set for publication in the American Journal of Infection Control, – Infection prevention and control heroes: The Challenge of Being a Student in the Clinical Environment –  and found that the IPC of other clinicians has a significant impact on nursing students in the clinical setting and that the more senior the students were, the more likely they were to comply with poor practice.

“This appears to be due to peer influence,” says Dr Zimmerman. “The sociological dimensions of infection control practice for student nurses are important and hence preparation for these needs to occur at a curricula level in the Bachelor of Nursing.

“Prevention and control of healthcare associated infections is an increasingly important element in global health service provision. If we can provide support and prepare students in helping them to feel comfortable in challenging poor infection control, then they may also be able to feel better prepared to advocate for other patient safety concerns such as medication safety and also healthcare worker safety.”

Dr Zimmerman says the study will inform future large-scale research into infection control in the clinical setting.