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Tuesday
Oct242006

Physician, wash thy hands.

24freak.190.jpg

NY Times story on physicians spreading bacteria.

There also seem to be psychological reasons for noncompliance. The first is what might be called a perception deficit. In one Australian medical study, doctors self-reported their hand-washing rate at 73 percent, whereas when these same doctors were observed, their actual rate was a paltry 9 percent. The second psychological reason, according to one Cedars-Sinai doctor, is arrogance. “The ego can kick in after you have been in practice a while,” explains Paul Silka, an emergency-department physician who is also the hospital’s chief of staff. “You say: ‘Hey, I couldn’t be carrying the bad bugs. It’s the other hospital personnel.”’ Furthermore, most of the doctors at Cedars-Sinai are free agents who work for themselves, not for the hospital, and many of them saw the looming Joint Commission review as a nuisance. Their incentives, in other words, were not quite aligned with the hospital’s.

The committee’s roughly 20 members, mostly top doctors, were openly discouraged by Murthy’s report. Then, after they finished their lunch, Murthy handed each of them an agar plate — a sterile petri dish loaded with a spongy layer of agar. “I would love to culture your hand,” she told them.

They pressed their palms into the plates, and Murthy sent them to the lab to be cultured and photographed. The resulting images, Silka says, “were disgusting and striking, with gobs of colonies of bacteria.”

Reader Comments (1)

Not only do few physicians wash their hands between patients. Few people in general wash their hands after going to the bathroom! We all now wear gloves, but what does that accomplish? Most doctors think it is just to protect themselves since after they put them on they touch door knobs, pens, charts, etc and then touch the patient's skin. Don't think the patients don't notice. Patients want to see clean and tidy offices, exam rooms, fresh lab coats, and clean finger nails! You would be amazed at the stories I have heard. A little soap and water can go a long way.

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