Without going into too much detail, I recently was hospitalized for a few days. During my stay, I had the chance to observe the practice of handwashing.
My first encounter was with a physician who entered my room and put out his hand. I would not shake it, but instead gave him my "decontamination handshake", the "elbow bump". He did not know what to do. So, I told him I did not see him wash his hands or use a hand sanitizer as he entered my room and I asked him to do so before he started to examine and ask me questions. He complied.
Later, another healthcare professional entered my room and again I did not see them do any type of hand washing. They informed me they had done so when leaving another patient's room. I informed them it was not good enough - I needed to see them either enter my room rubbing their hands or washing them in my room. They did use a sanitizer hand scrub in front of me. I politely informed them that I am the patient and the #1 way to reduce HAI is hand washing and, as a patient, I had the right to see them do that in front of me. Yes, it is the Stephen Kovach "Trust but Verify" method.
So, some time later, a team of at least 4 people came into my room, all of them were rubbing their hands with sanitizer, I was able to observe the proper way to start an examination on a patient. The word was out on me, I felt better.
Regardless of what our job is, we must do our best and to do it right each and every time no matter what our position is: doctor, nurse, technician...we all play a role in providing the best healthcare we can for our patient. Sometimes change is hard, and as we all become more informed, letting others know they must change is not easy, especially if they have titles. As in my example, a patient sitting in a bed telling a person with an advanced degree that, before he touches me, I want him to wash his hands in front of me. Oh, my, heaven forbid.
So, regardless of whether it is washing our hands in front of a patient, or just putting stock away using FIFO, we all must do our best to do it right each and every time because it is all about the patient. What I hope took place was a learning moment for my caregivers. I hope that, from my room visit on, they always washed their hands because that is the right thing to do. It's not just about me, it's about the other patients. They deserve the same standard of care. I hope you agree with me.
Next time any of our readers see me, ask me about the Stethoscope being pulled out of a pocket of a lab coat and being placed on my chest. Oh my, that was a doozy.
One last thing, October 15th was Global Handwashing Day. Remember, I usually say "Keep it Clean" but in this case, "Keep Those Hands Clean"!