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Hand Hygiene: Patients Speak Up – Part 2 of 3

Posted on by CDC's Safe Healthcare Blog
Hand Hygiene Saves Lives: Patient Admission Video
Hand Hygiene Saves Lives: Patient Admission Video

Krissy Brinsley-Rainisch, MPH
CDC Health Communications Specialist
CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion

Performing hand hygiene is a simple, mundane task. It is a very low tech action but has been shown to dramatically reduce healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). Still, there are a multitude of reasons why it isn’t always practiced as recommended: forgetfulness, too busy, lack of supplies, etc.

Patients and their loved ones can play an important role in the prevention of HAIs – they can ask or remind healthcare providers to wash their hands. CDC recently produced a video that encourages people to do just that. People often feel intimidated to question a healthcare provider, or they may even fear retaliation. We found in our evaluation of the video that healthcare providers are comfortable being asked by patients and their family members to perform hand hygiene, and more importantly, they would perform hand hygiene after being asked.

It can be difficult to speak up, especially when you are sick. Having a family member with you can help. The discomfort of speaking up outweighs the potential consequences of not doing so. Here’s one way to do it:

Patient: “Doctor, I’m embarrassed to even ask you this, but would you mind cleansing your hands before you begin?”
Clinician: “Oh, I washed them right before I came in the room.”
Patient: “If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like you to do it again in front of me.”
Clinician: “Sure, no problem.”
Patient: “Thanks doctor. I know how important hand hygiene is in preventing the spread of infections.”

We’ve heard from numerous patient advocates who have been affected by HAIs tell us that they wish they’d known what to do or say to prevent HAIs. This is one significant prevention step. So please know that you have the right to speak up if you see healthcare providers not practicing hand hygiene as they should.

Do you feel comfortable asking clinicians to wash up? Clinicians, how do you feel when a patient asks you to clean your hands?

Posted on by CDC's Safe Healthcare Blog

12 comments on “Hand Hygiene: Patients Speak Up – Part 2 of 3”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    Washing hands will reduce spread of germs.
    Insist the docotor washes hands in front of you is a good idea.
    The doctors know this is good clinical practice so should not mind doing it.

    jacob hiller

    Rule #1. If you have a loved one in the hospital, it is your responsibility to be the advocate for their care/service/treatment. If your grandmother had a bullet hole in the windshield of her car, you would speak up if the body shop put duct tape on it and called it a cure. We need to pay attention to the level of care on Grandma’s actual body and speak up to the doctors, nurses, other healthcare providers when needed.

    I visited a close relative in an upscale hospital. Her colon had been removed; colon cancer in an 80-year-old “healthy” woman. Gross, unspeakable gook was flowing in and out through tubes and plugs and bags. Nurses were in an out, flipping her over in the bed and wiggling all the plastic hanging parts.

    Not one nurse put on gloves. Not one nurse washed her hands. I stood there in disbelief. Yep, just stood there with my mouth agape and mute.

    Shame on me. My 80-year-old, healthy loved one is in isolation in the hospital with two raging HAIs that the medical staff can’t stop. The doctor said he would like to discharge her and send her to “assisted living” for rehab. He can’t wait to get that statistic out the door while she’s still alive.

    SHAME on me. Rule #1 broken. I’m not saying that by speaking up about hand hygiene, wearing gloves, etc. would have spared her these infections. But, somehow in the longrun a message would ring out that we’re all watching, caring, and hoping that the guidelines and messages are implemented everywhere. SHAME on me for my negligence. Practice what I preach: SPEAK UP FOR YOUR LOVED ONE.

    Hand Hygiene is so important especially in a hospital. You have to insist that the staff wash their hands. Its for your own good.

    David

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by CDC_eHealth and others. CDC_eHealth said: Patients – you have the right to speak up & ask your healthcare provider to wash their hands

    Hearing the results of the survey r/t health care professionals being comfortable with patients reminding them to wash their hands is encouraging. Why? Because, as a result of my advocacy, and my personal experiences, I have found that there remain signficant numbers of health care staff that have not yet ‘bought in to the thinking that it is the patient’s life and the patient and/or their loved ones have a right to remind staff to conduct safe practices”

    As a patient safety advocate, retired RN and family member of several who have been hospitalized, I, and my family member(s), at various times, have been on the receiving end of retaliation for speaking out and reminding staff to wash their hands. This was not exclusive to a hospital setting.

    Hearing the results of the survey r/t health care professionals being comfortable with patients reminding them to wash their hands is encouraging. Why? Because, as a result of my advocacy, and my personal experiences, I have found that there remain signficant numbers of health care staff that have not yet ‘bought in to the thinking that it is the patient’s life and the patient and/or their loved ones have a right to remind staff to conduct safe practices” And, not to be harsh, but my thinking is that patients should NOT have to remind staff to implement safe practices. It is my further opinion that if staff are aware of correct practices but do not implement such then they are knowingly placing patients at risk. This thinking on staff’s part that patients do not have the right to question or ask questions is still alive and well in the hospital setting and the dialysis facility setting. I do know that prior to my retirement if a patient and/or family ever questioned what I was doing I was thankful because I never wanted to make a mistake and always put myself in the patien’ts/families shoes.

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