BACKGROUND: Poor compliance with hand hygiene practices among medical students poses a risk for cross-infection. It has become more critical during the COVID-19 pandemic than ever before. This study aimed to determine the knowledge, attitudes, practices of hand hygiene among final-year medical students. It also explored reported hand hygiene behavior before the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for educational strategies to correct the deficiencies.
METHODS: A concurrent mixed-method approach was used. In the quantitative strand, a cross-sectional online survey was carried out via a Google form. Mann-Whitney U test and Chi-squared test were used for comparisons. In the qualitative strand, twelve participants were interviewed, based on a semi-structured interview guide and audio recorded. Transcribed data were evaluated with thematic content analysis.
RESULTS: A total of 225 final-year medical students were studied in the quantitative strand. Most were females. The mean score for knowledge was 3.35 ± 0.795 out of six. Of them, 31.6 % of participants scored below 3 points ( 80 %). Only 36.4 % reported "adequate" hand hygiene performance in all eight dimensions of the behavior domain. Noticeably, fewer participants reported to clean their hands after checking blood pressure (55.6 %), and only 66.2 % stated carrying a hand sanitizer in their pocket. Significant correlations were not found between reported behavior and attitudes (p = 0.821) or knowledge (p = 0.794). The qualitative strand with 12 respondents revealed the positive influence of both hierarchical and non-hierarchal role models. Time constraints, skin irritation, and workload pressures were the main barriers. Frequent reminders, supervision, and interactive teaching were suggested as methods to improve hand hygiene compliance. They also stated that increased enthusiasm was noted on hand hygiene during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to the pre-pandemic period.
CONCLUSIONS: Most of the participants had positive attitudes towards hand hygiene. Yet, a considerable gap between attitudes and knowledge and reported hand hygiene behavior was evident. Coupling educational programs that use cognitive and behavioral methods, including role modeling, supervision, and frequent reminders, is recommended to bridge the knowledge-attitude-behavior gap.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.