Many of us assume that doctors and nurses understand the importance of handwashing and reliably practice good handwashing techniques so germs aren’t transferred from patient to patient. However, a new study out of Santa Clara Valley Medical School in San Jose, California reveals that some health care providers fall prey to what’s called the “Hawthorne Effect”.
What is the“Hawthorne effect”?
The Hawthorne effect is when someone changes their behavior because they know they’re being watched. In this study, researchers found when doctors and nurses at this medical school thought they were being watched, good hygiene practices occurred roughly 57 percent of the time. That rate decreased (and plummeted) to 22 percent when health professionals thought they weren’t being evaluated.
I know it’s not an excuse but here’s the thing, we get very busy. And often we’re caught up in what we’re doing. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important. This needs to be a high priority for all of us, including myself, all the time.
Partha’s RX on Hand Washing for Everyone:
1. Wet your hands with warm or cold running water
It doesn’t matter what the water temperature is, as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention says it doesn’t seem to affect germ removal.
2. Use Liquid, Bar or Powdered Soap. Do not use Antibacterial Soap.
Antibacterial soap is not more effective. It could lead to germs developing resistance and make them harder to kill in the future.
3. Scrub your hands for 20 seconds then rinse
Make sure to lather everywhere including the back of your hands.
4. If Soap and Water Is Not Available, Use Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer
Make sure the hand sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol.
Should patients mention hand-washing if they don’t’ see their health care professionals washing their hands?
Patients get a little intimidated but be your own health hero. Ask the nurse or doctor if they’ve recently washed their hands – this is acceptable and might keep you from getting an infection.
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Data pulled from WXYZ