Why Don’t Doctors Wash Their Hands More?

After reading this, I don’t think I’ll be shaking hands with doctors anymore:

Hand hygiene and sterile technique are so successfully maintained in operating rooms not because of the reminders that hang over scrub sinks, but because it is part of the culture and identity of those who work there. No self-respecting surgeon, nurse, anesthesiologist or technician would ever dream of breaching those sterile protocols in the surgical suites. Or of allowing any deviation from the aseptic norms to simply pass.

But such enthusiastic devotion to hand hygiene does not exist outside the operating room. And again and again in discussions about quality and safety and the terrible infections that can ensue, one issue continues to bedevil the patient-doctor relationship yet defies all reason: why don’t doctors wash their hands more?

Over the last 30 years, despite countless efforts at change, poor hand hygiene has continued to contribute to the high rates of infections acquired in hospitals, clinics and other health care settings. According to the World Health Organization, these infections affect as many as 1.7 million patients in the United States each year, racking up an annual cost of $6.5 billion and contributing to more than 90,000 deaths annually.

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