Wash Your Hands – Yes, I'm Talking To You

by DavalosMcCormack on September 15, 2010

Working in a hospital you can’t go anywhere without being reminded of the importance of washing your hands. It’s the best, simplest way we have of protecting patients in the hospital from nasty bugs. It’s also the best, simplest way we have of protecting ourselves. And it’s made pretty easy too. There are sinks with soap and water in every room. There’s also gel or alcohol dispensers on every unit, meaning you never have to go far to find a way to clean your hands.

Ooh yuck

Good hand washing saves lives - maybe even yours

You might say “well my hands are clean, why do I need to keep washing them”. Because your hands – and not just yours, everyone’s – are like a breeding ground for bugs and bacteria.  It’s estimated that there are on average 150 different kinds of bacteria on our hands at any given time. That makes them No wonder perfect transmission routes for bacteria such as MRSA and c.difficile.

With that in mind, why wouldn’t you want to wash your hands if it means you get to stay healthy.  Yet numerous studies show that lots of people consider the “wash” in washroom to be merely a description not a recommendation.

You are being watched!

The latest survey, by Harris Interactive, sent spies into public bathrooms at baseball stadiums and train stations around the U.S. What they found did not make for pleasant reading. Around 20 percent of the people using the toilet at Grand Central Terminal in New York City did not wash their hands afterward. But at Turner Field – home of the Atlanta Braves baseball team – more than one third of people who used the restroom came out without washing their hands.  If even just a handful of those folks were vendors selling hot dogs and peanuts, that really is not a very appetizing thought.

Happily more than 85 percent of those using the toilets in the baseball stadium in San Francisco did wash their hands. It’s good to know that my fellow Giants fans are washing while I’m watching.

You think that’s bad!

But when it comes to hand hygiene baseball fans may actually beat health care workers hands down! Surveys show that, despite constant reminders and recommendations, as many as 60 percent of health care workers do not regularly wash their hands.

Would you want these hands to touch you?

Now, I can understand not wanting to wash your hands every single time you go into a patient’s room or have to do something new. It can be tiresome and time consuming to have to scrub up for 15 seconds before and after seeing every patient. But if that was you or your mum or a loved one lying in the hospital bed wouldn’t you want the doctor and nurse to have clean hands before coming near you? I know I would.

So next time you use the bathroom, wash your hands. If the bathroom is so skanky that it looks as if washing your hands could actually add more germs then it gets rid of, then maybe think about bringing along a little vial of hand sanitizer with you. You can get them at any drug store or chemists. They’re small, cheap and work just fine.

In the bible (Luke 4:23) there is the phrase “Physician heal thyself”. One good way for doctors to start – as well as nurses and the rest of us – would be to start by washing our hands.

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