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Washed out: Addressing hand hygiene in healthcare

Date: Mon 25th November 2019

As a medical student, institutional signage competes for your attention every day: 

As you go about your day, you are in and out of patient rooms, usually in less than 20 seconds, and usually without acting on one of the most important messages: Wash Your Hands Before Your Leave the Room. In fact, you’ve probably walked past a dozen hand hygiene reminder posters, but you didn’t notice them because you had so many details on your mind.


Maybe you didn’t notice the handwashing reminder signs because they were simply dull and blended in with the neutral walls. Or perhaps you saw them, but your brain filtered them out so quickly that the message never reached your conscious awareness.

You may have even registered the thought but decided to forgo sticky sanitizer hands since this was such a short, contact-free patient interaction. No harm done, right?


National estimates reveal that at least 50% of healthcare workers do not properly comply with designated hand hygiene techniques, while clean hands are the single most important factor in antibiotic resistance and preventing the spread of pathogens.

In the United States alone, nearly two million patients contract a hospital-acquired infection, and about 90,000 of those patients die as a result.

Pretty sobering data.

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