How Clean Are Your Nurse's Hands?

Among the common medical errors you'll ever witness in a hospital setting, a nurse or health care worker failing to keep his or her hands clean is probably the most fundamental and completely preventable, according to this excellent essay in today's New England Journal of Medicine.

The opening paragraph describes in graphic detail how easily and carelessly a premature baby in a neonatal ICU unit can be infected by the antibiotic-resistant staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA, a bacteria that may be found alive and well on computer keyboards used by health care workers.

Although the solution is as obvious as keeping one's hands clean with plain soap and water, the fact remains poor hand hygiene runs rampant in most medical institutions, estimated in the article to be no better than 50 percent.

The article also advocates more stringent policies to hold health care workers far more accountable for their lack of cleanliness and uses an interesting tech savvy example to make its point: The "clean room" where computer chips are made.

And, stay far, far away from antibacterial soaps made from synthetic chemicals like triclosan that create germs resistant to antibiotics and soaps over the long haul.

New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 355, No. 2, July 13, 2006: 121-123 Free Full Text Article

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