• A one-year prospective study of 454 patients in a pediatric intensive care unit was performed to determine whether the rate of breaks in handwashing technique was different between medical professionals and to determine whether these rates were altered by the use of the gown. A handwashing break in technique was defined as not washing your hands after direct contact with either patients or support equipment before contact with another patient or departure from the unit. Ninety-four two-hour sessions were monitored by a research nurse during four cross-over periods of gown and no-gown use. Physicians did not wash their hands in 834 (79%) of 1056 contacts, nurses in 1073 (63%) of 1714 cases, occupational therapists in 21 (62%) of 34 cases, respiratory therapists in 269 (78%) of 346 cases, and radiology technicians in 59 (78%) of 76 cases. Nurses used significantly better technique when compared with physicians, respiratory therapists, and radiology technicians. Gown usage overall did not affect these breaks in handwashing technique rates. Physicians did not wash their hands 75% of the time when gowns were not used and 82% of the time when gowns were used. Handwashing rates were unaffected by gown use in all other professionals. Handwashing an important but neglected method of interrupting the transmission of hospital pathogens.