Researchers Assess the Sustainability of Daily Chlorhexidine Bathing in the ICU


Daily bathing with chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) of intensive care unit (ICU) patients has been shown to reduce healthcare-associated infections and colonization by multidrug-resistant organisms. The objective of this project by Musuuza, et al. (2017) was to describe the process of daily CHG bathing and identify the barriers and facilitators that can influence its successful adoption and sustainability in an ICU of a Veterans Administration Hospital.

The researchers conducted 26 semi-structured interviews with a convenience sample of four nurse managers (NMs), 13 registered nurses (RNs) and nine healthcare technicians (HCTs) working in the ICU. They used qualitative content analysis to code and analyze the data. Dedoose software was used to facilitate data management and coding. Trustworthiness and scientific integrity of the data were ensured by having two authors corroborate the coding process, conducting member checks and keeping an audit trail of all the decisions made.

Duration of the interviews was 15 to 39 minutes. Five steps of bathing were identified: 1) decision to give a bath; 2) ability to give a bath; 3) decision about which soap to use; 4) delegation of a bath; and 5) getting assistance to do a bath. The bathing process resulted in one of the following three outcomes: 1) complete bath; 2) interrupted bath; and 3) bath not done. The outcome was influenced by a combination of barriers and facilitators at each step. Most barriers were related to perceived workload, patient factors, and scheduling. Facilitators were mainly organizational factors such as the policy of daily CHG bathing, the consistent supply of CHG soap, and support such as reminders to conduct CHG baths by nurse managers.

The researchers conclude that patient bathing in ICUs is a complex process that can be hindered and interrupted by numerous factors. The decision to use CHG soap for bathing was only one of five steps of bathing and was largely influenced by scheduling/workload and patient factors such as clinical stability, hypersensitivity to CHG, patient refusal, presence of IV lines and general hygiene. Interventions that address the organizational, provider, and patient barriers to bathing could improve adherence to a daily CHG bathing protocol.

Reference: Musuuza JS, et al. Assessing the sustainability of daily chlorhexidine bathing in the intensive care unit of a Veteran’s Hospital by examining nurses’ perspectives and experiences. BMC Infectious Diseases. 2017;17:75

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