Even though it’s an easy way to help reduce the spread of infectious diseases, like influenza and the common cold, some of us probably wash our hands less often than we should. Toxic alcohol-based sanitizing foams and wipes that can be used quickly and without water have made it easy to keep our hands clean yet some people wait until after they use the bathroom or become visibly soiled before cleaning up. If it’s any consolation, doctors in-training apparently aren’t much better. Data collected by German researchers at the Institute for Medical Microbiology and Hospital Epidemiology at Hannover Medical School indicates fewer than one-third of medical students actually know when they’re supposed to wash their hands .
A total of 85 third-year medical students at Hannover Medical School were given a list of seven common hospital scenarios and asked to identify which situations merited hand sanitation, and which did not. Of the seven scenarios presented, five called for washing up afterwards.
These included “before contact to a patient,” “before preparation of intravenous fluids,” “after contact to vomit,” “after removal of gloves,” and “after contact to the patient’s bed.” Roughly 80 percent of students surveyed failed to answer all seven questions correctly. Only one in three managed to at least identify those situations in which hand hygiene should be practiced.
The research team behind the investigation suspects that this tendency among medical students to clean their hands less often than they ought to, stems from a generally poor attitude towards the importance of hand hygiene on the part of their professors, and perhaps among medical doctors in general.
While doctors and medical students might not wash up quite as often as they should, nursing students, on average, scored significantly higher when presented with the same set of scenarios. You can rest easy knowing at least some of the people you come in contact with at the hospital will have clean hands.
In all seriousness though, this incredibly straightforward study highlights how easy it is for even trained experts to overlook simple and obvious precautions like basic hand hygiene, increasing the risk of harmful organism intake.
In addition to being a proven and well-documented means of preventing the spread of common disease, it only takes a few moments and is something everyone can and should do. I recommend using organic or all natural cleansers and soaps to avoid the absorption of toxic chemicals commonly used in cleansing foams and gels.
- Karolin Graf MD, Iris F. Chaberny MD, Ralf-Peter Vonberg MD. Two out of three medical students do not know when to wash their hands. American Journal of Infection Control. 2011 December 1. vol.39 issue 10.
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