Handwashing for Life Olympics: Battle at Waterloo

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Jim Mann, with microphone, explains the rules of the Handwashing for Life Olympics. The screen, right of center at top, shows how effective a contestant is when they’ve finished their turn at the sink.

Pathogens met their Waterloo as more than 400 culinary professionals staged a two day pursuit of the latest advances in nutrition and food safety. The annual campaign is sponsored by Martin Brothers, a regional distributor focused on the culinary needs of hospitals and nursing homes.

The location was the Waterloo Convention Center, celebrating the famous five Sullivan Brother patriots who fought together and unfortunately died together in WWII.

The two-day event opened Nov. 15 with an afternoon of competition to determine the best-of-the-best culinary handwashers. The Handwashing for Life Olympics continued the spirit of war, a war on healthcare acquired infections, the dreaded HAIs. Contestants pledged to do their part by stepping up their handwashing, the single greatest contributing factor to the 380,000 annual deaths attributed to infections acquired in long-term care residences across the United States.

Participants learned by active engagement. The goal was to deliver the knowhow and support materials to conduct this unique behavior-changing training program back at their base facilities.

The instructional design of the program is based on the power of personalized and visualized learning. Contestants discover for themselves that effective handwashing is a skill and must not be trivialized at any organizational level. Many were surprised to discover that their handwashing was less than perfect and in a few cases, far less. They learned how calloused skin is hard to clean and how important it is to keep hands hydrated.

Jim Mann, left, congratulates Gold Medalist Mark O’Connell at the Handwashing for Life Olympics.

Scoring of the handwashing skills followed the Handwashing for Life ProGrade protocol. Brevis simulated germ UV-lotion is applied and washed off.

Missed spots get a 1 point deduction and missed areas cost contestants 5 points. A perfect score of 100 was achieved by one person, Mark O’Connell, who is culinary services coordinator at Evergreen Senior Living in Chillicothe, IL.

Administrators were reminded of their role of leadership in the pursuit of enhanced handwashing as they rolled up their sleeves and entered the competition. There was a common concern expressed in the chitchat surrounding the event. Implementing responses to the constant flow of new regulations is a “major competitor” to hand-washing training.

Multi-topic training sessions and motivational presentations rounded out an the agenda. Roxanne Hassman, a Martin Brothers category manager, summed up the event: “Our culinary clients return every year hungry to learn and appreciate the environment created by our staff, a staff that truly cares and it shows.”

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