If you listened to this week's edition of White Coat Black Art, you heard Dr. Allison McGeer, one of Canada's key experts in infectious diseases, show me where hospital superbugs lurk and why people like me are part of the problem when we should be part of the solution.
On the show, I had the temerity to suggest that sometimes, me and my colleagues take short cuts on infection control because we have other pressing things to look after. And then we heard from you.
Nairn Galvin of Hamilton, Ontario writes "Listening to your programme right now, I was really angered and discouraged by your comment that sometimes with all the work and pressure you experience that you "just have to take calculated risks" (around not washing your hands). May I suggest that you consider taking that calculated risk with your own damn life and not mine or some other patient's who still has some foolish expectation that doctors are trying to help, not infect or kill? What was that little dictum again? "First, do no harm"?"
If you're worried about what I've said, a practical suggestion is to ask your doctor or nurse if they've washed their hands.
Picking up on that point, Val MacMillan of Camrose writes "As care providers it can be embarrassing to have a patient ask if we have washed our hands & on the other hand I'm sure many patients are reluctant to ask us. Here's a technique I have developed to both cue myself & enable my patients to feel comfortable in reminding me to wash my hands before I touch them. I preface any explanation of any procedure I need to perform with the words "I'm going to wash my hands & then ......" I find that verbalizing the intention reminds me to do it & should I get distracted & forget, it allows the patient to remind me in a less confrontational way:"didn't you say you wanted to wash your hands..?" my response then is "I sure did, I'm sorry I got sidetracked..."
I do find using this method that I don't forget very often!
Now, that's a brilliant suggestion. But I still think you shouldn't be afraid to ask about handwashing.
Ingrid van der Kloet wrote the following: "I am listening to your show on antibiotic resistance and transmission of hospital-based infection on Thanksgiving and can't thank you enough. I have worked as an RN in two major Toronto hospitals and I am constantly shocked by how out of touch the people making infection control policy are to the actual reality on the ground and how much time it takes to implement these practices. I also have to really limit how much alcohol wash I use because it dries and chaps my hands, making them sore and more susceptible to getting cuts and breakdown. They want nurses to wash their hands with alcohol 120 times in a shift but the people making the recommendations have no idea what that actually means for the frontline workers. Of course I think we need to look at ways to reduce transmission of infection, but I get really tired of these infection specialists moralistically blaming practitioners with dirty hands without looking at workload and workflow.
I rarely agree with you, but I liked your attitude today..."
See? I don't make this stuff up!
If you missed Monday's broadcast of the show on infections, you can hear it again on Saturday at 4:30 pm (5 in Newfoundland), or listen to it as a podcast from the menu above.