Author – Victoria Nahum
Co-Founder and Director
Safe Care Campaign (Atlanta, Georgia)
My name is Victoria Nahum. Almost 5 years ago, my husband Armando and I learned the hardest lesson of our lives. We learned that losing our 27 year old son Joshua to a healthcare-associated infection didn’t have to happen; even worse, his untimely death may have been prevented by some simple steps we wish we would have known back then. [Read Josh’s story.]
Perhaps the bitter knowledge that he did not die of his original diagnosis (injuries from a skydiving accident), but died instead of what health experts tell us was most likely preventable (a Gram-negative infection he caught during his care) is the hardest thing we live with every day.
In 2006, when Josh was first admitted to the hospital his father and I read and obeyed the sign on the door that simply said, “All visitors must wash their hands before entering the ICU.”
Little did we know that practicing proper hand hygiene just ONCE upon entering his room was not nearly enough. In fact, best practices require that caregivers and visitors wash or sanitize their hands prior to, and after touching, patients and/or objects in the hospital room. This is because the germs that are so prevalent in American hospitals. At any given time, about 1 in every 20 patients has an infection related to their hospital care.
The CDC says that proper hand hygiene is the NUMBER ONE WAY we can all help to prevent spreading these germs to the patients. And that’s why every single person who enters a patient’s room must always practice proper hand hygiene whether they intend to touch them or not. Never be afraid to ask a caregiver – even a doctor – to wash or sanitize their hands when they enter the room.
In the end, we learned that what you don’t know CAN hurt someone you love. Hand hygiene saves lives; this I know this from experience. Be sure that you learn about, practice, and insist upon proper hand hygiene when you or a loved one is receiving medical care.