It's OK to Ask

June 15, 2017

What would you do?

There is an entire television program dedicated to this one question. What would you do if someone wanted to hold your newborn baby? What would you do if you noticed that your dinner plate was dirty in a restaurant? Would you ask them to clean their hands? Would you ask the restaurant for a clean plate? If the answer is ‘yes’ to these questions, would you do the same in the healthcare environment? 

What would you do if your doctor or healthcare provider did not clean their hands? Would you feel comfortable asking them to clean their hands? If the answer is yes, then you should pat yourself on the back for being mindful of the importance of hand hygiene and being an advocate for your own health and safety. If the answer to the question is no, then continue reading. I want to change your way of thinking so you know that it’s OK to ask! 

Last month, we celebrated World Hand Hygiene Day – a day to recognize that clean hands are the best frontline defense against the spread of germs and serious infections. As I mentioned in the previous column, proper hand hygiene in a healthcare setting should be a top priority for both patients and those visiting their room, including all healthcare workers. So let me say it again: it’s OK to ask!

A rather startling statistic from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention showed that only 31 percent of men and 65 percent of women washed their hands after using a public restroom.  One or more of those men and women used the shopping cart, gas pump, or door handle before you did.  The same goes for your healthcare providers – whether it is a nurse, doctor, physical therapist, etc.  Before they entered the hospital room, or greeted you in the waiting room, they touched areas that may not be hygienic. They are well-versed in patient safety and practice proper hand hygiene when entering and exiting a patient room, it is still OK to ask.

I challenge you to do two things: one, help reduce the spread of germs and practice good hand hygiene and two, if you’re a patient, be an advocate for your own health and safety and ASK your healthcare provider if they’ve washed their hands.

I’ll leave you with these four words – it’s OK to ask!

For more information about hand hygiene, visit www.cdc.gov.

Chanda Newsome, RN, is the infection control and prevention coordinator at Wilson Medical Center.