PRLog (Press Release)
- Aug. 21, 2013 - WEST CHESTER, Pa. --
Over the past several years there has been great attention focused on health care practitioners and their hand washing – or lack there of. Recently, one institution has gone so far as to install cameras in their ICU and in real time monitor handwashing behavior. A little extreme but, I guess, if the staff is to lazy to wash their hands so be it. Clearly, hand washing is very important and simple infection control measure.The other week I walked into a patient room. I put all my stuff (computer, pen, otoscope and ophthalmoscope)
down and washed my hands. In this case, using a hand gel. I then introduced myself and shook hands with my patient. Then the patient then said the craziest thing — “Why don’t you make patients wash their hands?”. I was at a loss for words. The patient expounded, that if we as patients expect you as Doctors to wash your hands, why don’t you expect us to wash our hands. We are just as “dirty” as you are and we’re the reason that you will get sick and others will get sick. Wow! I didn’t really know what to say except “Good point” and I passed the patient the hand gel. We had a good laugh and then went to work.This anecdote brings up a very good point and a very difficult point. Physician hands certainly can spread alot of germs and appropriate hand washing will certainly reduce that spread. This is just good ole common sense — grandma was pretty darn smart ID Doc. But we are only addressing half the vectors. Patients don’t wash their hands when they come into the office. How many germs are they bringing in and leaving behind? What kind of pathogens are they leaving behind on my hands after I shake their hand? Are we missing an opportunity to reduce the spread of MRSA, C diff and other pathogens that are floating around in the community.Asking patients to wash their hands would be very tricky. I remember years ago, in Med School or residency, when a patient complained that another colleague didn’t want to touch them because of the rash they had. The patient was very offended that the staff (and I can’t remember if this was a med student, nurse, resident or who it was) implied that they sick and potentially infectious. They felt like they were not being treated like a human being. These are very good and valid points. Healthcare is about relationships and touch is a very important part of establishing a human relationship. Touch is a powerful healer. But what is that patient was carrying MRSA, Cdiff or other highly infectious agent on their skin? Is it right for patients to assume that physicians must risk their health in order to care for the patient? Is it acceptable for a uninfected physician to now become colonized with a pathogen and then become the vector that infects others ?Difficult questions and scenarios. But it is interesting to think about. Why is it assumed that Doctors have dirty hands and not patients? Think about that the next time you shake a patients hand.