Since words matter, and based on some up-to-the-minute chatter on the IHI Patient Activists Facebook page, we know that getting provider visitors to the bedside in hospitals to disinfect their hands is an ongoing challenge. One very experienced patient advocate, in for surgery herself, was snidely rebuked when she requested that the a visiting doctor wash hands with the statement, “well I showered this morning.” Nice. And a MRSA infection-in-waiting since the doc was there to examine the post-surgical site.
This got me musing while doing some midday yoga. Change our language. Don’t say “please wash your hands” because that’s actually ambiguous both in specifics and result. We may not actually wash hands, we may use air-drying gel or dry wipes. We really don’t want clean hands, we want disinfected hands. Disinfecting is the reason for washing.
So, from now on everybody say, “please disinfect your hands.” This gets to the heart of the matter. It asks for what is desired (and necessary), allows for various methods of disinfecting, and removes the fuzz factor where overworked, fast-moving providers’ brains (or anyone else’s brains) fail to go the distance between “wash” and “disinfect.”
So please, folks: disinfect your hands so as not to infect the patient.