I am not a doctor. I am not a microbiologist. To say that I am even any type of expert in the field of healthcare would be a blatant lie.
I have, however, worked for more than a year with a client that has a mission I’m professionally and personally passionate about. DebMed, creators and manufacturers of hand hygiene solutions for the clinical space, are working to make a real impact in the healthcare setting.
Did you know that:
These numbers are inexcusable. Furthermore, these aren’t just numbers – they are people. Dr. Manny Alvarez shares a good account of children who died at a New Orleans children’s hospital due to a fungal outbreak as recently reported in the NY Times. These stories are incredibly sad and heartbreaking.
The most rudimentary measure we can all take to protect ourselves, especially if we are in a hospital or clinic is to clean our hands. It sounds so basic, but it can be life-saving. And don’t come to me with “over-cleaning” and “alcohol-based hand sanitizer is how we got into this post-antibiotic conundrum to begin with.” There are medically fragile and immunocompromised patients in hospitals that must be protected from the spread of infection. That’s a fact. And according to The World Health Organization, healthcare worker hand hygiene compliance is at a disturbingly low 39%.
The systems in place now to monitor hand hygiene compliance of healthcare workers are archaic and inaccurate, and can lend to the Hawthorne Effect. In the case of the oft-used “direct observation” method, a staff member stands behind a doctor or nurse and physically checks a box on a piece of paper to say “yes, this person cleaned his or her hands.” That’s cost and time ineffective.
Also, most hospital systems use the “in-and-out” method. This means doctors and nurses wash their hands only when they enter and leave a patient’s room. What happens when they touch the patient and then the respirator next to the bed? What happens when they touch the hand rail of the bed that a visitor of the patient also touched not long ago and brought in some 2-10 million germs we carry on our hands at any given time? (It needs to be said also, no doctor or nurse goes to work deliberately intending to infect patients with deadly HAIs. They are at risk too. Let’s not demonize the incredibly busy, stretched-too-thin healthcare professionals for not cleaning their hands “frequently enough.”)
For a healthcare system that is so advanced in care and technology, how is it that lives are lost needlessly despite simple, preventative efforts such as proper hand hygiene?
This Monday marks the annual May 5, World Health Organization’s Save Lives: Clean Your Hands Day. Join me in spreading awareness about the dangers of HAIs and how the spread of these nasty bugs can be prevented. Now, go! Clean your hands. :)