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Hospitals: How To Avoid Infection & Medical Error

How To Enforce Hand Washing

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The Facts

Proper hand washing is one of the most effective methods of preventing the spread of germs. Still, studies repeatedly indicate that doctors, nurses and other caregivers fail to follow this essential practice and that bad hand hygiene is a leading cause of preventable health care related infections.

Most hospital rooms are equipped with wall mounted cleansing dispensers, bowls for hand washing or alcohol based swabs. Gloves are usually attached to a dispenser in the room. The equipment has no effect if not used.

What To Do

If you do not see your health care provider wash his or her hands with soap or anti-bacterial liquid, or put on fresh gloves before touching you, you can politely ask that the person do so.  Washing hands with an alcohol based product by itself is not enough because such products do not kill all potentially deadly germs.

Any procedure that "breaks the skin" increases your chances of developing an infection. It is particularly important to make sure that the doctor or nurse applies a fresh set of gloves before performing any invasive procedure, such as drawing blood, starting/adjusting an IV, or inserting/adjusting a catheter.  

Family members and visitors should also wash their hands upon arrival.

At first, it may be embarrassing to ask staff and your visitors to take these steps for your safety. When you keep in mind how important it is to your well being, you'll get the hang of it. To learn more, see offsite link or offsite link 

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