Healthy Living in the North

If we know it’s important to wash our hands. . . then why aren’t we doing it?

STOP! Clean your hands!

Canada’s STOP! Clean Your Hands day is scheduled to take place on Monday, May 6, 2013.

It’s a safe bet that one of the first things many of us learned as children was how to wash our hands. We had to wash our hands after playing outside in the dirt, before eating, when somebody spilled something on us, or if we blew our noses or sneezed.

It was drilled into us that washing our hands was important to staying healthy; in other words, the best way not to pick up some icky germs.

Why, then, is it so hard for us to make hand cleaning part of our routine as adults? And, more importantly, why are health care providers among some of the worst offenders when it comes to practicing proper hand hygiene?

It’s not like we don’t have constant reminders. Walk into any Northern Health facility and you’ll see hand cleaning stations and signs displaying the hand hygiene compliance rates for health care workers who are being audited on a regular basis. Go into your local grocery store and you’ll see a hand washing dispenser near the front door or in the meat department. Use a washroom in a local restaurant and you’ll see signs telling you that you’d better not exit the room without washing your hands!

You can now even buy wearable hand sanitizers that you can hook on your belt or wear on a lanyard around your neck. With tools like that, wouldn’t you agree that there’s absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t always remember to wash our hands?

If you need further convincing, visit the Provincial Infection Control Network of BC, which has a range of hand hygiene resources devoted to proper hand washing. Or you can visit the BC Centre for Disease Control. They have a wonderful page devoted to hand washing which includes detailed information of when and how to wash your hands; what kind of soap or alcohol-based hand rubs are best; and how to minimize your risks of picking up germs.

Likewise, for Canada’s national Lung Association. They tell you in plain language how to wash your hands and fight germs. In this day and age of superbugs, why wouldn’t anyone want to follow these simple rules for hand hygiene?

In health care, we know that regularly washing our hands is the single most important way to prevent the spread of infections and protect patients, staff, and physicians. To paraphrase a well-known company, let’s stop making excuses and just do it!

Deanna Hembroff

About Deanna Hembroff

Deanna is the NH regional manager for infection prevention where she is actively involved in the hand hygiene program. Deanna has a nursing degree from the University of Victoria and has been certified in infection prevention for 14 years. When not at work, Deanna can be found enjoying time with her family, walking their two golden retrievers and, when time permits, reading a good book.