medical professionals must wash hands before returning to work just dont ask about it

Hospitals here in the United States and abroad have become increasingly attuned to the extreme danger posed by antibiotic-resistant infections over the last few years. In fact, many facilities have now adopted certain procedures in order to reduce the risk of infection, including enhanced sterilization techniques and improved hygiene practices.

One of these improved hygiene practices is, of course, proper hand washing by both physicians and nurses. By taking a few minutes to clean their hands, medical professionals can keep their patients healthy and happy.

Interestingly, a recent study reveals that while medical professionals understand the importance of washing their hands and are more than willing to do so, they don’t necessarily want to be reminded of this by their patients.

The study, published online in the Archives of Internal Medicine, involved distributing a written survey to 700 physicians and nurses employed by the University of Geneva Hospital system. While only 277 employees responded (44 percent physicians; 56 percent nurses), researchers still described their findings as “surprising.”

Almost 75 percent of the survey participants indicated that, in general, patient involvement could be effective in reducing the spread of hospital-acquired infections. Conversely, 29 percent of the survey participants indicated that they did not necessarily support the notion of patients reminding them to wash their hands, while 27 percent indicated that patients who inquired about hand washing were overstepping their bounds.

The results were even more interesting when the medical professionals revealed why they were opposed to patients asking them about hand washing:

  • 25 percent said such inquiries would take up too much of their time
  • 17 percent said such inquiries would be upsetting
  • 27 percent said such inquiries would be humiliating
  • 43 percent said such inquiries would result in feelings of guilt/shame if forced to admit to failing to wash their hands
  • 25 percent said such inquiries would make them look inept if forced to admit to failing to wash their hands

The results of this study, while certainly limited in scope, are nevertheless disturbing. It’s truly shocking to think that doctors or nurses could be so unreceptive to such a simple and perfectly rational inquiry. Patient safety simply cannot be compromised to protect the feelings of physicians, and for any health care professional to suggest otherwise is ridiculous in the extreme.

Source: U.S. News and World Report, “Third of hospital staff say hand-washing reminders unwelcome,” Alan Mozes, Sept. 6, 2012

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