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Issues addressed: Hand hygiene in hospitals is vital to limit the spread of infections. This study aimed to identify key beliefs underlying hospital nurses’ hand-hygiene decisions to consolidate strategies that encourage compliance. Methods: Informed by a theory of planned behaviour belief framework, nurses from 50 Australian hospitals (n = 797) responded to how likely behavioural beliefs (advantages and disadvantages), normative beliefs (important referents) and control beliefs (barriers) impacted on their hand-hygiene decisions following the introduction of a national ‘5 moments for hand hygiene’ initiative. Two weeks after completing the survey, they reported their hand-hygiene adherence. Stepwise regression analyses identified key beliefs that determined nurses’ hand-hygiene behaviour. Results: Reducing the chance of infection for co-workers influenced nurses’ hygiene behaviour, with lack of time and forgetfulness identified as barriers. Conclusions: Future efforts to improve hand hygiene should highlight the potential impact on colleagues and consider strategies to combat time constraints, as well as implementing workplace reminders to prompt greater hand-hygiene compliance. So what?: Rather than emphasising the health of self and patients in efforts to encourage hand-hygiene practices, a focus on peer protection should be adopted and more effective workplace reminders should be implemented to combat forgetting.

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