All Hands On Deck

servicesImage  This month brings a worldwide focus on hand hygiene and infection prevention. Recent articles and blog posts have reiterated the importance of this small action, but also highlighted the never-ending lament that compliance is not 100%. The CDC recently emphasized the role of patients and families in spurring better adherence to this seemingly simple task. The ensuing discussion threads are a mix of bewilderment that we have to remind anyone to wash their hands and outrage that patients and families have to police this issue.

Atul Gawande recently wrote a New Yorker piece in which he explored the often lengthy period of adoption of evidence into practice. A key point was that until a procedure or action is seen as beneficial to the individual patient and the caretaker, there will be gaps in adherence. Do our healthcare workers not care? No — they have multiple patients, wash their hands hundreds of times a day, may have already done it out of our line of sight, or simply forgot. It’s time to stop wasting our collective energy on indignation and blame and accept our responsibility in making it clear that we see this small action as a fundamental element of quality care.

I believe that many voices together are more effective than any guideline, WHO or CDC infographic, Joint Commission checklist or fancy monitoring technology. Like I do with my children, I will remind anyone to wash their hands before they touch me or someone I love – that’s my part of helping ensure good health care practice. Frankly, it feels good to be able to do something to make a difference. This is especially true when you are in the throes of your own new diagnosis, a medical emergency or the long-term health care of a loved one. So today, resolve to be the individual voice that makes a difference. Remind a colleague/friend/loved one/child/parent/doctor/nurse/technician – anyone – that clean hands matter to you and to all of us. And if you see the right thing? Remember to acknowledge that too. Positive reinforcement and validation is something we all seek. That’s the true community vigilance that it will take to wash our hands of this endless (and fruitless) debate.

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