Wash your hands: You will be saving your life!

When it comes to the prevention and control of infections, the best advice I can give you is advice your mother gave you as a child: “Wash your hands!”And, if you ever find yourself hospitalized, ask that staffers wash or sanitize their hands while you watch.

A recent survey of doctors and nurses said they would respond positively if you asked them to wash their hands in your presence, but felt uncomfortable that you would ask in the first place!  Did you know that people who use public restrooms are more likely to wash their hands than physicians in America’s hospitals, a leading scholar reports.

Some hospitals are taking matters into their own hands. Employees with patient care relationships could soon find themselves out of a job if they don’t follow hospital policy on hand-washing. The employees administering patient care are casually observed by “secret shoppers” to see whether or not they are complying with the “zero tolerance” policy for failure to wash their hands before and after they enter a patient’s room.

So, due to a recent drop in hand-washing compliance, the hospital will institute a system of potential rewards and punishments. Compliant hand-washers will receive index cards that make them eligible for a prize raffle; noncompliant employees will receive index cards with an infraction notice. Staff members who reach three infractions will receive a letter noting that reappointment is conditional. The hospital reappoints employees every two years.

Poor hand-washing is serious stuff! What’s more serious than somebody dying from a hospital-acquired infection that could have been prevented with proper hand washing? Hand-washing is as important as having a sterile environment in an operating room.

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