Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Can We Expect Patients to Question Health Care Workers’ Hand Hygiene Compliance?

Source: Daily Mail UK
Empowering patients to speak with their doctor about hand washing has been suggested as a potential means for improving hand hygiene compliance. Here is a brief study published in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology (apologies that there is no abstract).

During a 4 week study, an educational brochure on hand hygiene was given to patients and an interview prior to hospital discharge was performed.  Patients felt it proper to speak up and request that a physician or nurse wash their hands. Few patients, however were willing to do so. Only 43% of respondents claimed that they would ask a doctor to wash his hands while 67% would do so for nurses, especially if the nurse were both female and junior.

I feel that patients should be empowered to demand hand hygiene, however, this will not be sufficient. We should not put the burden of practice change on patients. That is our problem to tackle and enforce. With respect to patient temerity on asking the doctor to perform hand hygiene, perhaps there is some truth in the following: 

The doctor is often more to be feared than the disease.  ~French Proverb

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