Shocker - Doctors And Nurse
Ignore Basic Hospital Hygiene
PHILADELPHIA - Doctors and nurses are least likely to wash their hands in that part of the hospital where patients are often at their most vulnerable - the intensive care unit, a study published on Monday showed.
The study, conducted at Switzerland's University of Geneva Hospital, also found that compliance with recommended hand-washing guidelines was lowest before high-risk procedures and that among hospital staff, doctors were far less likely to wash their hands than were nurses.
Published in Tuesday's edition of the American College of Physicians' Annals of Internal Medicine, the findings are important because hand washing is a basic safeguard against hospital-acquired infections that cause 90,000 deaths a year in the United States alone.
An Annals of Internal Medicine editorial that accompanied the study said the results confirm generally low hand hygiene in the medical world, even as hospitals struggle to control new drug-resistant infections.
Swiss researchers observed staff on 48 wards at the University of Geneva Hospital during all shifts over the course of two weeks in December 1994, witnessing more than 2,800 "opportunities" for hand washing.
Health-care workers were expected to wash their hands before and after contact with a patient, after touching potentially infected substances and after removing gloves.
But hospital workers complied only 48 percent of the time " 30 percent if the worker was a doctor, 52 percent if a nurse, 47 percent if a nursing assistant and 38 percent if another kind of health-care employee.
Among hospital wards, intensive-care unit staff complied with handwashing guidelines only 36 percent of the time, compared with 59 percent for staff in the pediatric ward and a rate of 52 percent for the generic medical ward.
But the study said it may be impossible for ICU workers to wash their hands at every opportunity, because the process of walking to a sink, washing and returning to the patient literally takes a full minute.
"If 40 opportunities to wash the hands occur per hour of care, the total amount of time spent washing hands becomes prohibitive," the study concluded.