A Moment of Science

The Surprising Truth: Doctors Are Not Washing Their Hands

Doctors are not washing their hands...

washing hand sign blue and white

Photo: Tom Magliery (Flickr)

Signage is one way to help remind others to wash their hands.

Since the beginning of time, or at least for a good long while, mothers have exhorted their kids to wash their hands. It’s a lesson most of us learn and carry with us into adulthood.

And you’d think that some people namely, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers would heed this most basic tenet of proper hygiene most of all. Because, after all, hand washing is the most effective way of not spreading germs.

Wash Your Hands!

But according to dozens of studies, doctors are not so great when it comes to hand washing. Sure, surgeons are very careful about scrubbing up. But other docs are less vigilant about washing their hands before and after seeing patients. So over the past several years researchers have thought hard about how to get doctors to maintain better hand hygiene.

See The Signs

One study found that placing carefully worded signs next to soap and hand sanitizer dispensers helped.

Because doctors and other healthcare workers tend to believe that they won’t get sick, the study found that the most effective signs were those that emphasized the benefit for patients when doctors wash their hands.

Spot The Camera

Another study found that training video cameras on sinks and hand sanitizer units, and publicly reporting how often doctors and nurses washed up, significantly increased hand washing rates.

Hand Hygiene

It’s not clear why, exactly, doctors aren’t normally more vigilant about hand washing. But the importance of hand hygiene is clear. Spreading diseases is one of the biggest problems in hospitals. And regular hand washing is one simple, if apparently difficult to enforce, solution.

  • Anonymous

    I agree fully – too often Doctors seem ignorant to the simple task of washing/cleaning their hands.  Fortunately I have seen a great product that could change this and ensure that all Doctors and Healthcare workers clean their hands when entering a ward.  Pure Hold Ltd http://www.purehold.co.uk have developed an innovative new door handle that cleans your hands with alcohol hand gel when you use it.  This alternative hand gel dispenser is perfect for hospitals and toilet door handles and initial clinical trials seem to have yield fantastic hand hygiene compliance rates in two NHS Hospitals

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