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Hand Hygiene - Dance It In


This three month Arts and Health artist in residence project at The Royal Melbourne Hospital RMH) in partnership with Ausdance and The Institute for Creative Health was the first of two residencies, over 6 months, bringing dance to the hospital wards and halls aligning with RMH priorities of safety first, hand hygiene, and positive staff engagement.

The project explored artists’ immersion and development, new audiences, artistic outcome, joy in work place and health outcomes. Hand Hygiene compliance audits were sourced at the prior commencement of the project –including bedside audits and compliance with online training modules (all mandatory).

Choreographer in residence – Andy Howitt immersed himself in the hospital culture and details around hand hygiene- every moment of Hand Hygiene technique as stipulated by The World Health Organisation) was integrated into a simple dance for staff, fiend and visitors. This formed the ‘en masse’ the Hand Dance.

A video was created to teach the staff the dance – culminating in a flash mob on Change Day, March 11, 2014 with over 150 in attendance. Change day is a people led global social movement. It invites you to be ‘change-makers in health, aged care and community services for better outcomes for everyone’. 


Art in all Spaces and Places’ - dancers were engaged transforming the creating “Art is all Spaces and Places’. This element was to engage and challenge people to reflect on Hand Hygiene and also to challenge the dances in their own development as artists.

In partnership with the dances Howitt reflected on the reality of how Hand Hygiene saves lives- yet compliance across the world in so many settings is so low- this reflection formed the basis of the variations on the Hand Dance- developed into a dance video ‘Life in Your Hands’. 

Original music was composed for the dance in collaboration with Emma O’Brien and Stephan Skov (The Institute and Music Therapy at RMH). The music supported all elements of the dance.

Post the project there was an increase in uptake of mandatory training. No immediate change was seen in the hand hygiene audit outcomes, however by 6 months post there was an increase in hand hygiene compliance in medical staff and students (NB. the majority of participant in the ‘flash mob’ were medical students).