Infection Prevention Campaign Solicits Patient Participation

How would hospitalists feel if patients or families asked them to wash their hands when they entered the hospital room? A new campaign called "Infection Prevention and You," engages patients to help hospitals overcome one of the most persistent barriers to preventing hospital-acquired infections (HAIs)—healthcare professionals failing to practice proper hand hygiene.

Launched by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), the organization"s executives contend that everyone plays a role in infection prevention.

"We know that washing hands is important, and so many things have been tried," says Carol McLay, DrPH, MPH, RN, CIC, infection prevention consultant and chair of APIC’s Communications Committee. "Patient empowerment is one of the newer approaches. Studies have shown that patients really like the idea, but often are afraid to speak up."

Dr. McLay says hand-washing advocacy is one piece of a larger campaign for preventing HAIs across settings of care.

"I would hope that physicians, including hospitalists, would view it as an opportunity to do the right thing, to serve as effective role models, and to say to their patients, ‘Your health is important to me,’" she says.

"The aspiration of having anyone and everyone speak up and ask providers to apply hand hygiene is laudable," says hospitalist Ethan Cumbler, MD, FACP, who has spearheaded a multidisciplinary hand hygiene initiative at University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora. But he says it is naive to expect all providers to respond positively to being corrected in this way. "At first, we may bristle at being challenged on hand hygiene, but when we consider what kind of physicians we want to be, and what kind of culture we want to work in, I believe it is a challenge we will come to appreciate," Dr. Cumbler says.

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