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Do Doctors And Nurses Only Wash Their Hands If They Know They Are Being Watched?

by The Beasley Firm  |  February 13, 2012  |  

A Long Island Hospital installed cameras that captured views of every sink and hand sanitizer in an intensive care unit (ICU). For a period of 4 months, without exposing any personal information, the cameras monitored doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers hand washing compliance as they entered and left patient rooms. All of the employees were aware that their hand washing, or lack of, was being observed.

When the hand washing observations first began, the results were frightening. Only 6.5 percent of employees, who were having direct contact with patients, washed their hands within 10 seconds of entering or leaving a patients room. During the 16 weeks following the installation of the cameras, the hand washing compliance rate jumped to 81.6 percent and then 87.9 percent for the next 18 months. Dr. Bruce F. Farber, chief of infectious disease at North Shore University Hospital and lead author indicated that, “People’s behavior does change when they’re being watched.”

Hospital or healthcare-associated infections (HAI) are the leading cause of death in the United States taking approximately 100,000 lives each year more than AIDS, breast cancer or motor vehicle accidents (MVA). Patients who are admitted to the hospital without an infection are frequently infected with Klebsiella, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), staph, Vancomycin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VRSA) and Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) while in the hospital. Any one of these bacteria’s can cause central line catheter infections, catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI), surgical site infections (SSI), wound infections or ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP). Any patient that becomes infected can go on to develop sepsis, septic shock, organ failure or even death.

In the past, hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities have taken measures to try and reduce hospital acquired infections but this may be the most effective way to ensure that physicians, nurses, and others that are entering or leaving patients rooms are adhering to the easiest and cheapest way of preventing the spread of infections. Everyone behaves when they know they are being watched and the experiment at North Shore University Hospital confirms this.

The sad reality is that patients are entering hospitals without infections, but dying from infections once they are in the hospital and the main reason could be due to a failure of the nurses or doctors to wash their hands. Here at the Philadelphia Beasley medical malpractice law firm we have teams of nurses and doctors who have actually worked in hospitals and nursing homes who are very experienced in proper hand washing protocols when caring for patients. If you or a loved one developed an infection while in a hospital, nursing home, dialysis center, doctors office or any other medical center, please feel free to contact one of our experienced lawyers, doctors, or nurses for a confidential and free consultation. Since 1958 we have had over $2 billion awarded on behalf of our injured clients and have had two of the highest medical malpractice verdicts awarded in Pennsylvania history. We were there when they needed us and we are here for you now.

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