Critically ill patients are at marked risk of hospital-acquired infections, which increase patients’ morbidity and mortality. Registered nurses are the main health care providers of physical care, including hygiene to reduce and prevent hospital-acquired infections, for hospitalized critically ill patients.


To investigate a new patient hand hygiene protocol designed to reduce hospital-acquired infection rates and improve nurses’ hand-washing compliance in an intensive care unit.


A preexperimental study design was used to compare 12-month rates of 2 common hospital-acquired infections, central catheter–associated bloodstream infection and catheter-associated urinary tract infection, and nurses’ hand-washing compliance measured before and during use of the protocol.


Reductions in 12-month infection rates were reported for both types of infections, but neither reduction was statistically significant. Mean 12-month nurse hand-washing compliance also improved, but not significantly.


A hand hygiene protocol for patients in the intensive care unit was associated with reductions in hospital-acquired infections and improvements in nurses’ hand-washing compliance. Prevention of such infections requires continuous quality improvement efforts to monitor lasting effectiveness as well as investigation of strategies to eliminate these infections.

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