…Or to any health care worker
Wash your hands!
Hand hygiene is a given, ingrained in us from the time we are small, at home and in school. Healthcare facilities have training for all employees on hand hygiene. The Joint Commission mandates compliance. The Centers for Disease Control requires it and provides educational resources. The World Health Organization has guidelines on hand hygiene. The largest health care insurer, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, imposes reimbursement penalties for hospital acquired infections. We all know that good hand hygiene prevents the spread of infection. It protects our patients, and it protects us. We’ve known that since Florence Nightingale wrote about it in 1860. We’ve all taken microbiology – and know what grows on our hands.
So why do I have to say…
Wash your hands!
These are 3 words a nurse should never have to say to a doctor or to any health care worker. Patients have a right to safe care . We have a responsibility to our patients, to our coworkers, and to ourselves to prevent the spread of infection.
I’ve witnessed doctors enter a patient’s room (no initial hand washing or use of hand sanitizer), don a pair of sterile gloves, perform a vaginal exam, discard the gloves, leave the room without performing hand hygience measures, and proceed to use the computer keyboard to type a progress note. Meanwhile, they’ve touched the markers to write on the white board, used the eraser, and touched the phone, desk, and chair. Sometimes they cough or sneeze into their hands (sneeze into the sleeve and cough into the cloth, people!). And then they may leave to see a patient in the emergency room, oncology floor, or a post-op patient, with their germs hitching a ride.
This is disgusting behavior, from professionals who know better.
It is not my job to monitor what the rest of the hospital staff does. But it is my job to advocate for the safe care of my patients. It is my responsibility. The American Nurses Association’s (ANA’s) “Code of Ethics for Nurses” states “The nurse promotes, advocates for, and strives to protect the health, safety, and rights of the patient.”
Heed my warning!
If you are a physician or any other health care worker and you don’t perform hand hygiene before and after you attend my patients, I will point it out. I will not allow your risky practice to endanger the welfare of my patients and their families, my coworkers, or myself. I will ask you, in the presence of my patient, to please wash your hands. Clean hands save lives. Protect patients, protect yourself, protect your coworkers.
If you are a patient reading this blog, I’m telling you how it is. It is your right to see your health care provider wash their hands or use hand sanitizer upon entering and leaving your room. If you don’t see it, speak up! Clean hands save lives. And it might be yours.
And did I mention?
Wash your hands. Clean hands save lives.