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Medical students' role models jeopardising infection control

February 20, 2014

The matter of infection prevention is vital for healthcare organisations of all sizes, whether it be reducing needlestick injuries or ensuring that best practice is carried out among all members of staff. However, research has suggested that a lack of decent role models for medical students is jeopardising the prevention of infections.

Published in the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC), the British study has highlighted that 100 per cent of the student nurses surveyed had witnesses lapses in infection prevention and control practices during their clinical placements.

Infection prevention and control (IPC) education is a vital part of the nursing curriculum and, in the case of needlesticks and medical sharps, could have a detrimental effect on a person's career or health if not adhered to properly.

Researchers at the Cardiff University and London's City University found that all of the 488 students, who completed the 19-point survey, reported witnessing at least one instance where the professional didn't comply with procedure. The most frequently observed incidents were relating to hand hygiene, with 75 per cent seeing healthcare workers failing to clean their hands.

However, more than half of the students anonymously surveyed observed members of staff poorly handling medical sharps and failing to adhere to isolation precautions, according to the APIC, which is the official publication of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).

The respondents most commonly commented on poor IPC habits of physicians, specifically in relation to hand hygiene, the handling and disposal of sharp instruments and failing to use procedures meant to steralise medical devices before they are inserted into a patient.

“Overall, the findings support the conclusions of earlier researchers who explored experiences of 
IPC in the clinical setting,” state the authors. 

The team of researchers added that staff that are fully-qualified are providing "poor role models" for student nurses who are yet to get their full experience. 

“The findings of this study indicate the need for better role models for student nurses,” added the authors of the research paper.