It’s okay and important to ask your doctor “DID YOU WASH YOUR HANDS?”

Recently after a doctor’s appointment I went to a nearby lab to have blood drawn for routine tests. I asked the phlebotomist to wash her hands to which she replied she already had. She had washed her hands in another room after the last patient, done some other work, come into the room, put gloves on, then went and used a shared computer*, before finally drawing blood. When I asked, she refused to wash her hands in front of me. So I refused to let her proceed. The same with the second tech. Finally the third washed her hands correctly in front of me.

“Most patients wouldn’t dare to ask their doctor to wash his or her hands..” It’s a simple enough request, but for patients and families who feel vulnerable, scared or uncomfortable in a hospital room, the subject can be too intimidating to even bring up with a doctor or nurse…” (A)

Some hospitals post signs in each examination room encouraging patients to be vigilant about doctor hand-washing; one even gives patients a card stating “Your care provider should clean their hands: 1) Before contact with you; 2) Before a procedure; 3) After a procedure; and 4) After contact with you.” (B)


Some background on Hospital Acquired Infections:

Hospital infections affect almost two million people in the United States every year, 100,000 of whom die. Up to 70 percent of these infections could be prevented if health care workers follow recommended protocols, which include hand hygiene. (C)

“…this sobering truth. When bacteria lurking on, for instance, a medical device, a bed rail, a bandage or a caregiver’s hands find their way into a patient’s body via a surgical wound, a catheter, a ventilator, or some invasive procedure, the disturbingly frequent result is a serious, sometimes devastating, infection.” (D)

“Hospital-acquired infections (HAI) cost $9.8 billion per year, with surgical site infections alone accounting for one-third of those costs, followed closely by ventilator-associated pneumonia at 31.6 percent….” (E)

“Hands are the most common vehicle for transmission of organisms and “hand hygiene” is the single most effective means of preventing the horizontal transmission of infections among hospital patients and health care personnel. “ (F) (G)


Protect yourself! Start by asking your doctor, nurse, phlebotomist, physical therapist and others –



* “It turns out that your computer keyboard could put a host of potentially harmful bacteria — including E. coli and staph — quite literally at your fingertips.” (H) “A study… suggests that dangerous bacteria may be spread by health care workers’ clothing.” (I)



(A)    Why Hospitals Want Patients to Ask Doctors, ‘Have You Washed Your Hands?’ by Laura Landro

(B)   It’s okay to ask your doctor: “Did you wash your hands?”, by Paul Taylor,

(C)   Hand Washing Stops Infections, So Why Do Health Care Workers Skip It? ,  by Sanjay Saint,

(D)   What Zero Looks Like: Eliminating Hospital-Acquired Infections,

(E)    Hospital-acquired infections rack up $9.8B a year, by Julie Bird,

(F)    Guidelines for prevention of hospital acquired infections,

(G)  Strategies to Prevent Healthcare-Associated Infections through Hand Hygiene,

(H)   How dirty is your Qwerty? by Dan Childs

(I)     Do white coats, scrubs, stethoscopes, cell phones and computer keyboards collect dangerous hospital germs?, by Joe Graedon,

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