Patient privacy curtains in relationship to hand hygiene: Exploring behaviors Description of the project

Patient privacy curtains in relationship to hand hygiene: Exploring behaviors Description of the project


Name: Mari Allen

Rank: CPT

Presenter/Poster: Presentation and Poster

Year: 2019


Recently, a number of studies have been released highlighting the presence of potentially problematic bacteria on patient privacy curtains.  This project assessed nursing behaviors related to patient privacy curtain use and evaluated bacterial presence on these curtains following terminal room cleaning to inform our infection control procedures.

Objectives of the study

We aimed to enumerate bacteria on patient privacy curtains in an effort to evaluate the effectiveness of current cleaning processes.  We also aimed to assess nursing behaviors and perceptions in relationship to the patient privacy curtain.


Bacterial linked to healthcare acquired infections have been positively identified on patient privacy curtains. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has been shown to survive on hospital curtains for 9 days.  The current cleaning practice at our facility is to exchange privacy curtains with freshly laundered curtains when visibly dirty, following discharge of a patient on contact precautions, otherwise NOC leadership is responsible to work with housekeeping to have all curtains exchanged every six months. 

Study methods of implementation

Privacy curtains in two medical/surgical wards and the intensive care unit were swabbed at the vertical hem in clean patient rooms. Swabs were streaked on blood agar plates and enumeration was performed the following day. Colonies displaying suspect morphology were further tested. To assess nursing behaviors, staff were verbally asked a series of questions and the results were recorded. 

Study/Project findings

The average colony forming units on 28 curtains was 42, well above the industry standard of 2.5.  Results from our behavioral assessment of nurses are currently pending, data collection will be complete within the next two weeks.  Preliminary findings suggest problematic behaviors with the potential to transfer bacteria to other surfaces or the patient.   

Implications for military nursing

Privacy curtains are often touched with bare/gloved hands by the nurse during patient interactions. It is important that a clear process is in place and followed for the cleaning of these curtains.  Nurses should be mindful of their hand hygiene habits in relationship to contact with patient privacy curtains to minimize the spread of bacteria.

4 keywords: Nosocomial Infections; Infection Control; Surface Disinfection; Hand Hygiene