Friday, May 27, 2016

Why Don't Doctors Wash Their Hands More?

I grew up getting all of my medical care from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN because I grew up in Rochester, MN. Because of this, I grew up expecting a certain level of care - like hand washing.

Each and every time a doctor entered the exam room, the first thing he or she would do is wash their hands. Every room had a leg operated sink so they could wash right in front of you without fear of contamination. Not that 7 year old me cared about such things. Still, I saw it being done and thought it to be normal procedure.

I don't think I've watched a single doctor wash their hands before doing an exam since leaving Rochester almost a decade ago. And I've been to doctors in North Carolina, Virginia, Washington DC and all over the St Louis area in that time. What I do see is the use of those disposable gloves. Gloves that are retrieved with dirty hands and handled by dirty hands during the process of being put on, doesn't exactly feel like it will protect me from whatever the last patient had or whatever is on the handles and laptops the doctor has touched on the way to me.

Now obviously not every interaction with a doctor requires freshly washed hands. If we are just going to talk then I don't mind because I take responsibility to use the hand sanitizer on my way out to protect myself from the germ-filled doctors office or hospital. But when they are going to be giving injections, doing exams, etc. I feel like they ought to be washing their hands before putting on their gloves. And I mean right before doing so.

The unwashed handling of gloves feel like either a formality or a means of protecting themselves from us without protecting us from them. Clearly, the gloves should do both but I don't see how it can protect us from them if they don't wash their hands first. The truth of the matter is that hospitals and medical offices are some of the dirtiest places around. We should all be doing everything we can to protect against the spreading to germs.

Hand washing is so very simple and so very effective. So why don't doctors wash their hands more?

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