Thomas Sandora, MD, MPH, hospital epidemiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, provides recommendations on discussing hand hygiene amongst healthcare providers and between patients and healthcare workers.
Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability)
“What we’re trying to do now at hospitals is have something that we call a culture of safety. Basically, creating a safe environment where it’s okay to speak up about a safety risk that you see, no matter what it is and no matter who you’re talking to.
Hand hygiene is a great example of that. If you’re in the hospital and you see one of your colleagues or your peers forget to perform hand hygiene, it’s usually not because of any ill intention, it’s just because everyone’s so busy and has so many things to think about. We encourage people to speak up and gently say something to their colleagues, just as a reminder, [like], “I noticed you didn’t perform hand hygiene before you went in the room. Make sure you remember to do that.”
We’re trying to get to a point where everyone feels comfortable saying that to each other, and it’s not viewed as a criticism, but just a chance to catch a near mess and prevent any safety events from happening.
It’s much harder for a family to speak up about hand hygiene to a healthcare provider because they don’t want their doctors to become upset if they point out something that they [did] wrong. We work with [families] to teach them that we’re all on the team together, [and] that it’s part of their job to advocate for their child, around any safety-related events, but especially around hand hygiene.
A lot of hospitals will use things like buttons that people can wear that say “ask me if I did hand hygiene.” Or you can have stickers that you can give to the family that they can use to remind healthcare providers about doing hand hygiene in their own child’s room. It can be a tricky topic to address, but I think [that] most healthcare providers, if a family said that to them, would be very appreciative that they pointed out a missed opportunity, and would be happy to go ahead and clean their hands.”
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