THE STRUGGLE TO GET HOSPITAL PERSONNEL TO WASH THEIR HANDS. This article by Claudia Kalb in Yahoo News tells about the efforts of Vanderbilt University Medical Center to get personnel to wash their hands when they should. The effort began in July 2008 when the senior vice president for quality, safety and risk prevention at the medical center sat with his wife after she had undergone double knee surgery. He counted 92 times when a staff member should have washed their hands; only 32 of the times did they do so. The multi-year campaign has been a success. Hand washing rates have gone from 58% to 97%, with a lowering in the number of infections. For example, three different kinds of infections have been reduced by from 33% to 80%.
However, the effort that is described in the article shows that it is difficult to get people to wash their hands. In fact, the campaign met with resistance from several department chairs. The campaign set up an observer in each department who monitored and documented hand washing 20 times a month. Departments who underperformed received an “intervention letter” from the superiors. Competition among departments and financial incentives were used.
The extent of the effort demonstrates how difficult it is to change lifetime habits. When I was born in 1942, antibiotics were just being introduced. As I posted on here, I was raised in a world where people were very aware of germs. Washing hands became a habit when I was very young.