Can hand washing prevent patient harm in hospitals?
Many people think of hospitals as sanitary places. The truth is that many surfaces in hospitals are laden with nasty germs that can cause infections and other issues. As sick people sneeze, cough and breathe, those germs float around and land on surfaces. Even in the cleanest hospitals, there is a chance of getting sick from those germs. One of the best ways that people can stop the spread of these germs in hospitals is by washing their hands.
Who should wash their hands?
Everyone in a hospital should wash his or her hands, especially the medical professionals who work at the hospital. Think about it this way. If a nurse goes into a patient’s room to care for the patient, the nurse’s hands likely have germs from that patient. If the nurse goes into the next patient’s room and doesn’t wash his or her hands, the germs from the first patient are transmitted to the second patient. That can lead to the second patient getting sick from the first patient’s germs.
When should medical staff wash their hands?
Hands should be washed before the medical professional has contact with any patient. If there is contact with bodily fluids, blood or any surface that might be contaminated, the medical professionals should wash their hands.
What should I do if I don’t see a medical professional wash his or her hands?
You can remind them to wash them before they have any contact with you. Even if they wear gloves, that isn’t enough in a hospital setting to prevent the spread of germs. Simply reminding them to wash their hands could prevent you from being one of the estimated 772,000 patients each year who get an infection while the hospital.
Anyone who does get a hospital-acquired infection has the right to seek compensation for the effects of that infection. Working with someone familiar with Kentucky laws regarding hospital errors can help you to learn your rights.
Source: United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Hand Hygiene Basics” accessed Jan. 15, 2015