One of the simplest ways to prevent life-threatening infections in hospitals is for physicians, nurses, and other medical staff to simply wash their hands before and after seeing patients. Study after study has shown that when physicians actually follow this basic hygiene protocol, the rate of infections – and resulting deaths – plummets.
Yet study after study has shown that doctors and nurses, supposedly educated professionals who should know better, fail to wash their hands in spite of this knowledge. Our medical malpractice attorneys encourage patients to take a role in protecting their own safety.
However, a new study out of Switzerland has found that doctors and nurses are offended by these patient reminders, and don’t want patients to participate in securing their own safety in this way.
Specifically, one-third of healthcare providers indicated that they did not support the idea of patient hand-washing reminders, calling them “upsetting” or “humiliating.” An even greater 37 percent of doctors and nurses said that they would flatly refuse to wear a badge telling patients to remind doctors and nurses to wash their hands.
Our medical malpractice attorneys, however, would like to suggest that the best way for a physician or nurse to avoid the “humiliation” of a patient reminder to wash his hands would be to simply wash before the need for a reminder arises – rather than attempting to dissuade patients from protecting themselves.
Even the study’s authors encouraged patients to ignore the results of the study and continue to protect themselves by reminding doctors and nurses to wash their hands. The study’s lead author, who also heads up the World Health Organization’s hand hygiene campaign, said that the study should provide insight to doctors, nurses and hospitals on the need to correct the problem from within. Patients, however, should continue to remind physicians and nurses to wash their hands before touching them.
The study’s authors optimistically believe that hospital culture will “continue to change” until hand washing becomes “second nature” for doctors and nurses. With all due respect to the authors, doctors have known for a century that washing their hands is absolutely essential to preventing hospital-acquired infections through medical malpractice. As the evidence continues to mount, it is unbelievable that doctors and nurses have not yet taken this danger seriously.
We thus believe that waiting around for doctor, nurse, and hospital “culture” to change is a futile exercise. Patients must protect themselves, despite any risk of offending healthcare workers, by demanding that these workers abide by basic hygiene rules. And when hospital-acquired infections occur, victims – or the loved ones left behind – must take legal action against those responsible. If the risk of injuring or killing their patients cannot motivate doctors and nurses to wash their hands, perhaps the risk of a lawsuit will.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.