With this week being International Infection Prevention Week, there’s no better time to review hand hygiene since it’s the single most effective way of reducing the spread of germs and infections. For our patients, this small act is huge.
A cancer patient is immunosuppressed, which means that his or her body’s immune system isn’t as high functioning as it normally would be. This leaves the patient highly susceptible to acquiring infections and at a higher risk for developing serious complications from those infections.
While it may seem like common sense to wash your hands, as we approach the start of cold and flu season, please make sure to take the extra time to practice proper hand hygiene – regardless of whether or not you come in direct contact with patients.
And, what about all the references to using hand gel, like in the SCCA South Lake Union clinic? Along with the recent re-launch of our brand, there are new full-size images of staff on the clinic elevator doors reminding everyone about proper hand hygiene – which can include hand gel. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be substituted when you don’t have access to soap and water as long as your hands are not visibly dirty. SCCA has a “gel in, gel out” policy where all clinic staff must perform hand hygiene when entering and leaving a patient exam area.
Here are a few (of many) instances to wash your hands:
• Before preparing food
• Before and after eating
• Before and after interacting with a patient
• Before preparing medications or devices for patient use
• After touching inanimate sources that are likely to be contaminated (i.e., bedside table, TV remote control)
• After using the restroom
• After picking up an object from the floor
The above isn’t a comprehensive list of when to practice good hand hygiene. Just remember, it never hurts to wash your hands if you’re unsure if you should or not. And if you ever find yourself with an extra 15 to 20 seconds to spare, maybe put down your iPhone and go wash your hands.