Olympic-inspired torch relay spreads important message
Student Michael Rymer; Maria Bennallick; Professor Bridie Kent, Head of the School of Nursing and Midwifery; Professor Trish Livsey, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health and Human Sciences; and Dr Andy Nichols

The Olympics may be over, but nursing academics from Plymouth University have kept the spirit alive in an inspired torch relay to demonstrate how ‘clean hands save lives’.

Maria Bennallick and Dr Andy Nichols, Lecturers in the University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, who are based at its Knowledge Spa campus in Truro, have visited the Mayflower Steps, the Eden Project, the Minack Theatre and many other local landmarks as part of the Hand Hygiene Torch Relay run by the Infection Prevention Society (IPS).

From 5 May, and running until 26 September, health professionals and IPS members have taken an ‘Olympic’ torch around their area to raise awareness of the importance of clean hands among the general public. The vision of the IPS is that no person is harmed by a preventable infection.

This message is promoted by the IPS every year to highlight the annual World Health Organisation ‘Clean Your Hands – Call to Action’ for healthcare workers, and this year adopted the torch relay idea to coincide with the sporting spectacular. 

Mrs Bennallick, Lecturer in Health Studies, said that Plymouth University was taking the message very seriously, promoting the importance of handwashing at all levels of nursing care and health education.She said: 

“Across all settings worldwide, people can acquire infections that affect their lives as well as those of their family and friends. Patients may carry microbes that cause them no harm but can easily be passed to others on the hands of healthcare workers. We have known for many years that hand hygiene is the single most important way to stop the spread of these germs and break the chain of infection. This applies to us all whether at home preparing food or in an operating theatre repairing bodies.

“Hand hygiene can be so simple, yet so vitally important, and it is something that we always emphasise to all our students. It’s great that the IPS is using the idea of an Olympic torch this year to reach as many people as possible too.”

As part of the tour, the University team used their ultraviolet light to demonstrate how effectively - or in some cases, ineffectively - people cleaned their hands. 

Dr Nichols, Lecturer in Nursing Studies, said: 

“People are really surprised by what can remain on their hands they’ve ‘washed’ them. Most health care settings recognise the importance of hand washing and prioritise it now. Having hand washing facilities, hand gel and corresponding handwashing instructions in obvious view helps, and we hope that this IPS relay helps to further hammer the message home.”

Dr Andy Nichols, Lecturer in Nursing Studies, on the importance of hand hygiene

People are really surprised by what can remain on their hands they’ve ‘washed’ them. Fortunately, most health care settings recognise the importance of hand washing and prioritise it now.

The University team used their ultraviolet light to demonstrate how effectively - or in some cases, ineffectively - people cleaned their hands.

Landmarks visited on the tour