• hand hygiene;
  • nurses;
  • nursing;
  • nursing students;
  • professional socialisation

Aims and objectives.  The present study examines nursing students’ perceptions of hand hygiene practices in clinical settings. The objectives were to investigate any factors that affect students’ perceptions of their own and healthcare workers’ (HCWs) hand hygiene compliance, and to make recommendations for future practice and hand hygiene training in preregistration nursing courses.

Background.  Effective hand hygiene decontamination can lower the prevalence of healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs); unfortunately, the prevalence of HCAIs continues to rise and so poses challenges to healthcare providers to reduce such infections. Previous studies have shown that hand hygiene compliance in HCWs is generally low and that any increase in compliance is difficult to sustain. Several barriers to hand hygiene compliance have been identified in the literature.

Design.  A qualitative interpretive design was used to examine nursing students’ perceptions of hand hygiene practices.

Methods.  Ten preregistration students participated in semi-structured qualitative interviews, which were analysed thematically.

Results.  Hand hygiene compliance was perceived to be effected by specific barriers which included: time and busyness; clinical procedure; skin condition; lack of knowledge and glove use. Importantly, students perceived other HCWs as being the influencing factor for hand hygiene compliance resulting from the perception that they should ‘fit in’ with those working in the clinical area.

Conclusions.  The findings support previous literature and found that respondents emphasised the importance of fitting into the clinical area and role models in shaping hand hygiene compliance.

Relevance to clinical practice.  For nursing students, the influence of other HCWs as role models should not be underestimated.