Friday, June 18, 2010

Hand Washing

When you work in a hospital, as I once did, you learn some useful things. For example, before I was cleared to see patients (as a chaplain) I first had to learn proper hand washing technique. A nurse explained to a group of us that hand washing is the number one method for clinicians to avoid spreading disease from patient-to-patient. Even when you haven't actually touched the patient, merely by being in the room you have come into contact with a contaminant inadvertently. Thus, washing hands between patients is absolutely critical. Then we were shown a short film on how to properly wash your hands. I'll give you the highlights:
  1. Turn on the water, adjust the temperature to be comfortably warm
  2. Wet your hands
  3. Out of the water stream, soap up your hands and scrub vigorously at least to half way up your forearm for at least 20 seconds
  4. Rinse your hands in the water
  5. Dry your hands with a paper towel
  6. Use the paper towel to turn off the water tap... Do not touch the handles

This simple procedure saves thousands a day. Lots and lots of studies have confirmed just how important hand washing is to controlling infection in a clinical setting. And yet mistakes are made. I remember reading a study about how various clinicians were observed to see how often they remembered to wash hands, and Chaplains scored better than doctors! (And so did nurses.)

I'm thinking of this because we took Henry to his six-month well baby doctor visit yesterday. His initial exam was performed by a medical student and both Betsy and I observed that she did not wash her hands correctly before putting hands on the baby. To be fair, it's possible that she washed her hands before entering the room (although, that would require using the door knob between sink and infant). All we saw a brief rinsing of her hands with water, drying with a paper towel, and then turning off the sink with her bare hand. I thought about saying something, but didn't want to be a pushy, germ-obsessed parent. Nor did I want to embarrass her with her Supervisor (who wasn't in the room for the exam). She must be very new to clinical pediatrics, because she had never seen a cloth diaper before. But I now I regret not saying anything. She was there to learn, after all.

-t

1 comment:

meg said...

In our house you have to sing the alphabet song twice while washing or you have to go back and do it again :)