Most people are not aware of the severity of complications resulting from improper hand hygiene in a hospital setting.
Be Empowered: Insist on Clean Hands
Any time a doctor and nurse enters a room to examine you, make sure they clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer. As a patient, you should have a voice, and your friends, families and other visitors can encourage medical staff to clean their hands.
Hand-washing is the single most important way to prevent infections, yet studies suggest that only about half of U.S. health care workers consistently clean their hands as frequently as required.
Know the "Five Moments for Hand Hygiene" approach. There are five key moments when healthcare workers should perform proper hand hygiene. This approach recommends healthcare workers to clean their hands:
- Before touching a patient
- Before aseptic procedures, such as starting an IV
- After body fluid exposure/risk
- After touching a patient
- After touching patient surroundings, such as the bed rail or curtain
"When it comes to healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), I'm just about as knowledgeable as you can get – my career has been focused on ensuring patient safety and quality in hospitals. Yet I still contracted an HAI. One month following a total abdominal hysterectomy for Stage II uterine cancer, I developed a large mass of dead tissue in my abdomen because of a surgical error. This resulted in a massive open wound, and it was during treatment for that wound that I more »
contracted MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) a bacteria, and difficult-to-treat infection. Because of this I was faced with 6 months of uncomfortable hospitalization and treatment that included extra surgeries and blood transfusions. Today I am basically well. I do have a chronic colonization of infection in my abdomen which has flared several times. But my lesson to pass to others is this: appropriate hand hygiene cannot be overlooked or underestimated. Doctors and all clinical professionals must always follow proper hand hygiene. We as patients must follow hand hygiene. And we must have a voice to encourage others – patients and healthcare professionals – to always adhere to proper hand hygiene. MRSA is typically spread from patient to patient because of poor hand hygiene practices and non-adherence to isolation precautions in healthcare settings. I want to share my story in hopes that I can help others."
Ellen Hargett, Atlanta, Georgia