CDC: Healthcare Providers Wash Their Hands Half As Often As They Should

In the current age of high technology, rapid advancements, and designer drugs, it may seem surprising to some to realize that one of the most important tools when it comes to patient safety in the medical field in Illinois continues to be proper hand washing. Studies show that effectively washing your hands can significantly reduce the numbers of germs and bacteria on them, preventing the spread of these infection-causing agents and improving the health conditions of those around you.

Medical settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, urgent cares, and doctor’s offices, tend to be rife with germs. Sick patients continue to enter these settings and leave their germs behind, enabling others and even those who arrive after sick patients to become ill. Commonly touched surfaces like door handles, drinking fountains, pens, and countertops are some areas where gems are known to linger and to spread from patient to patient, quickly enabling a massive number of individuals to fall ill.

There are two primary types of people who spread germs in medical settings: patients and employees. Patients often have less of an ability to wash their hands and remain germ-free as their access to sinks may be limited and as an ongoing condition may leave them covered in germs regardless. Employees, including physicians, nurses, receptionists, and custodial staff, have more access to sanitary options for hand washing and also have a greater need to wash their hands frequently. Though patients are likely to be confined to one room or one limited area, employees are more apt to move from room-to-room, interacting with a greater number of patients and therefore allowing them to cause a greater germ spread if their hands are dirty.

Despite the common knowledge that hand washing is crucial in the health care industry, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) reports that healthcare professionals wash their hands less than half as often as they should. This lack of hand washing is thought to contribute to the high rate of healthcare-acquired infections which currently strike around four percent of all hospital patients in the United States.

The CDC notes that some healthcare professionals may need to clean their hands as many as 100 times during a 12 hour shift, depending on the activities in which they are engaged and the number of patients with whom they come into contact. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer may be a good option for healthcare workers in some settings as this product will kill harmful germs without over drying a provider’s skin. However, certain germs, like c. difficile, are not killed by alcohol-based hand sanitizer so hand washing is necessary when coming into contact with some patients.

Healthcare employees are reminded of the important role they serve in preventing the spread of germs and the ease at which they can control their actions by simply washing their hands. If you are a patient or visiting a patient in a medical setting, the CDC recommends taking your health into your own hands, so to speak, by washing your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water or by using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. You should be particularly vigilant after touching high-germ surfaces like bed rails, remote controls, telephones, door knobs, bathroom surfaces, and prior to eating.

Germs are a constant threat in medical settings and may be unavoidable in some situations. But if poor hygiene or a lack of proper cleaning led to an infection, it may be a sign of medical malpractice or negligent medical care.

Prior Blog Entry:

Red Light Car Accidents Often Lead to Pileups in Chicago, Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, published June 7, 2016.


Clean Hands Count for Safe Healthcare, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, published May 4, 2016.

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