Written by Catharyn Schmidtke, RN II (Infection Prevention/Nursing Quality Staff Nurse)
Reviewed by Deborah Motley, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC

Last year at Student Health Services (SHS), the clinic saw over 43,000 medical visits. Many students came in with illnesses that could have been avoided with better hand hygiene practices. One of the more common illnesses seen at SHS was Upper Respiratory Illness. In Fall 2017, the medical staff treated 3,208 patients for an upper respiratory infection, accounting for approximately 8% of all diagnoses.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), handwashing can reduce the risk of respiratory infections by 16%1.

What we do at SHS:

Student Health Services continually aims to provide students with education and tools to help guard their health. Its goal is to educate patients about hand hygiene to help them “Stay Well, Do Well.” Furthermore, the staff at SHS strive to improve their own hand hygiene practices in order to better protect you, the patients.

Nursing Quality Initiative at SHS:

The nursing staff is working hard to improve hand hygiene rates by starting a new campaign. Efforts include: access to hand sanitizer throughout the clinic, informational posters near sinks detailing proper handwashing technique (see display below), and staff participation in hand hygiene education/training.

In order to measure compliance, patients will be participating in a quick survey upon checking out of the clinic during portions of each semester. Trained observers working on the floor with our staff will be recording compliance efforts. The goal of this initiative is to achieve and maintain >95% hand hygiene rate of compliance at SHS.

Basic Methods for Cleaning Your Hands:

There are two basic methods for cleaning your hands3:

  • When hands are visibly soiled, using soap and water to clean them is preferred over using hand sanitizer. Norovirus and bacteria like Clostridium difficile, which cause severe diarrhea, require soap and water to reduce their presence on your hands 2,4. Also, certain chemicals and heavy metals can only be removed by using soap and water to clean your hands1,3.
  • Another method for cleaning hands is to use alcohol-based hand rub. Alcohol-based hand rub can kill or reduce the amount of germs on hands. However, it is important to note that alcohol-based hand rubs do not kill all germs.

When to Wash Your Hands


  • Before and after preparing food
  • Before and after eating
  • Before and after toileting
  • Before and after pet care
  • Before and after treating a wound or cut
  • Before and after caring for a sick family member or friend
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After touching garbage

How to Wash Your Hands


  • Wet your hands
  • Lather your hands rubbing with soap making sure to get the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your finger nails.
  • Scrub for at least 20 seconds.
  • Rinse with warm water until your hands are free of soap
  • Dry hands with a paper towel and use another clean one to turn the faucet off.

As SHS begins to measure hand hygiene efforts throughout the upcoming school year, progress will be documented and shared with students and staff. Patients are encouraged to ask if SHS staff have washed their hands before assisting you during your visit. Join SHS on its pursuit to provide outstanding healthcare for TAMU students.

To learn more about hand hygiene tips from the World Health Organization, visit the following link: Hand Hygiene Tips for Patients.

Fill out our handwashing poll and see how others score!

Handwashing poll courtesy of: APIC.org

Thanks and Gig ‘Em!


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Handwashing: Clean hands save lives. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/index.html
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Preventing Norovirus Infection. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/preventing-infection.html
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). When & How to Wash Your Hands. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html
  4. Lessa, F.C., Mu, Y., Bamberg, W.M., Beldavs, M.S., Dumyati, G.K.… McDonald, L.C. (2015). Burden of Clostridium difficile infection in the United States. The New England Journal of Medicine 372(9), 825-834. doi: 1056/NEJMoa1408913