During my nursing training, one of my practicum placements was in an elementary school. In this placement I taught a variety of different health and science topics in kindergarten through grade 7. While I got to teach some cool science lessons – such as the nervous system – the teachers overwhelming requested lessons on two topics in particular: sex ed (no surprise) and hand washing.

When teaching hand washing, I followed the Do Bugs Need Drugs program developed by the Alberta Health Services. After talking to the children about hand washing and antibiotics, we’d put the “magic germ lotion” on their hands, which glows under a blacklight. We’d then get them to wash their hands, and check their hands again to see if they missed any spots. While the kids took turns washing their hands in small groups, we had colouring and activity sheets from Do Bugs Need Drugs for the others to work on.

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Using a blacklight to teach proper hand washing technique. Image from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

The need to learn how to properly wash your hands isn’t just isolated to children; adults need to learn too! When I taught freshman nursing skills lab we dedicated the entire first lab session to proper hand hygiene. In fact, we also used the “magic germ lotion” with our nursing students. While washing your hands may be seen as a fairly common sense thing, there is a certain technique to it and many areas of the hand are often missed.

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Areas frequently missed in hand washing.

Since nursing school I’ve continued to teach hand hygiene in my workplace and now in my classes at the Faculty of Education. Even when I’m not formally teaching hand washing, I try to role model proper hand hygiene. I recently had a fellow soup kitchen volunteer tell me she’s been mimicking how I wash my hands, and she’s noticed she doesn’t get as many colds now.

Hand Hygiene Tutorial Video

This weekend I filmed a tutorial on hand washing based on Ottawa Public Health’s information on when to wash your hands, and the World Health Organization’s guidelines on proper hand washing. I did, however, make a few changes based on my nursing training. In my tutorial I also included:

  • Removing jewelry from your hands before washing them;
  • Washing your wrists.

I encourage you all to view the video, share it with your friends and family, and be a role model for good hand hygiene in your community.