Reflection of a public health nurse: Development of a handwashing program in schools

Development of  handwashing program in schools has been a challenge to the medical team  especially among  public health nurses. Many questions could  be raised before this program  be  implemented. As public health nurse, what can I contribute in the handwashing  program in school? Is my knowledge sufficient enough to initiate a program that could be of great help to everybody especially to children? What are the informations and  materials  do I need to gather to help me with this handwashing program?

As public health nurse, I am one of the witnesses of the proper and improper ways of   hand sanitation among children. It is very important that this practice is initiated in schools among students. The importance of handwashing should be instilled in the minds of the students. They should be informed of what may be the possible diseases  or illnesses that can be acquired without handwashing. They should  practice on how and when to wash their hands.

Handwashing   remains the most cost effective way of disease spread prevention  such as colds, flu,  infectious diarrhea and even hepatitis A (Quan, 2006).  Since elementary school children are the most susceptible of acquiring the infection through  unwashed hands, Morton (2004) conducted a study  that determines the effectivity of  an alcohol gel as an adjunct to handwashing. This study resulted in reducing absenteeism secondary to infectious  illness.

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Based on the transtheoretical model, there are three primary components of changes to undergo to attain the goal of the program (Prochaska, DiClemente, & Norcross, 1992).  According to the model, the people must pass through the stages of changes. At first, it is important to recognize the problem. In handwashing program in school, it is very important to impart to the  children even to the teachers and parents  that  their behavior towards the program is very crucial in the attainment of its objectives.

They must bear in mind that this program will help them in prevention of acquiring disease.  After this stage, they should be ready for some changes in their individual habits especially when it comes to handwashing. Since children may not be ready for any changes in handwashing habit, it is very helpful for them if they could see or read some informations regarding the program.

Placing some notes or posters of reminders on the board   or walls  in school would be advisable. Make  them reader- friendly. Making it colorful, with graphics and pictures would surely attract their attention. They should be reminded to wash their hands when they are dirty, before and after eating and   after using the bathroom. Children should be encouraged to use tissue paper when blowing and wiping their nose. Even after playing with domestic animals such as cats and dogs. It is also  important  to wash their hands before and after playing with their friends (Quan, 2006).

In this part, changes are made in individuals’ behaviour   and  practices toward  handwashing. Action of the teachers and parents   would   play a big role. It   is advisable to make the environment suitable for the children just like making the sink at their level of reach. Most of the children are not fond of washing their hands after the activity because the sink is too high for them. Soap and towel should also be present.  Finally, it should be borne in mind the integration of the   changes made.

As public health nurses,  we should be ready to attend to the needs of  the people especially when it concerns with the implementation of health policy. It would be easier if the people  are concerned enough to the welfare of  one another. Program like this, handwashing in school is just the beginning of  a more  serious way towards healthy life. The most important thing is that   there are individuals who are willing to lend their hands to help for the betterment of  everybody. I think this is just one of the most important roles the public health nurses play.

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