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Doctors not washing hands enough in hospitals

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

A new study shows that forty percent of doctors are not washing their hands in hospitals after examining patients. Preventing spread of infection depends on hand washing, but according to the new findings, doctors are not washing their hands enough in hospitals.

The study comes from the University of New South Wales and the New South Wales Clinical Excellence Commission. Compared to nurses, who wash their hand sixty five percent of the time after spending time on patient care, physicians are lagging.

The news that only forty percent of doctors wash their hands in hospitals means interventions are needed. One method that boosted hand washing in the hospital among physicians is through an education campaign says Associate Professor Mary-Louise McLaws. She also suggests that health workers should remind each other about hand washing.

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"We should be empowering doctors and nurses to remind each other gently and politely, and of course doctors will need to have special research so that we can find out what are the barriers and facilitators that we don't understand that prevent them from hand-hygiening."

A shortcoming of educational campaigns that could get doctors to wash their hands more often is the ease of slipping into old patterns of behavior, which is what happened. According to McLaws, "Certainly during the intervention they improved about up to the rate where nurses were in the beginning; they then slipped back into their old ways."

The findings are hoped to be a “wake-up” call to doctors that they need to boost hand washing in hospitals, and remain consistent. The study found that sixty percent of doctors do not follow good hand hygiene after examining patients. Hand washing in hospitals is essential to prevent spread of disease not just among patients, but among health care workers as well.

Reference: eMJA