DEAR ABBY: We would like to add to the discussion about unwashed hands being a hazard for patients. We are certified infection-control practitioners in a large medical center. The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology is a well-established organization with more than 3,000 professionals, whose goal is to promote excellence in infection control and prevention.
Hand-washing is the No. 1 prevention against spread of infection, inside and outside the hospital setting. It is important in the home, in schools and in every workplace. It is the cornerstone of infection-control practice and education for everyone who works in health care.
Proper hand-washing is taught during orientation for new employees and daily by most practitioners whenever the need arises. Soap, running water, friction and 10 to 15 seconds covering all surfaces of the hands are necessary to loosen dirt and wash the germs down the drain. It is the responsibility of all health-care employees to practice proper techniques to protect patients -- as well as ourselves.
At our facility, hand-washing is considered serious business and proper practice is enforced. Alcohol foam or gels for hand antisepsis are recommended for those "difficult times" when an employee is unable to get to a sink.
We agree with your statement, "Proper hygiene practices are an essential part of high-quality medical care." And we want Dear Abby to continue to be part of our team, promoting good infection-control practices, hand-washing and good health. Thank you, Abby. -- JAN WROBEL, RN, AND BARBARA WIXSON, RN, SUMMIT MEDICAL CENTER, OAKLAND, CALIF.
DEAR JAN AND BARBARA: I'm sure many readers will be as surprised as I was to learn that most hospitals have a full-time infection-control team or nurse whose job it is to do surveillance, prevention and control of hospital-acquired infections.
A patient, relative or friend of a patient who witnesses a breach of proper hygiene practices should report it to the charge nurse, the administrator of the facility and the infection-control coordinator. Speaking up will not jeopardize the comfort of the patient; however, failing to speak up could endanger the health, or even the life, of the patient.