I've been involved in healthcare for a long time, from many different vantage points, and I like to think I've seen it all and that nothing could phase me – even though I know that is not the case.
However, when STOP! Clean Your Hands Day rolls around every May 5, I'm confronted by something that I just can't believe we haven't solved yet: clean hands!
On the one hand, it's troublesome that something that is so simple to do, and that can save and protect so many people is still a major problem.
On the other, I know that change can be slow and that even though it's taking longer than I'd like, I believe we are heading in the right direction.
Let's look at a pair of other public health issues for some context:
Smoking. It's taken a couple of generations, but we've gone from smoking in schools and on airplanes, to prohibiting smoking in most pubic spaces. Per Stats Canada, fewer people are heavy smokers today compared to a decade ago, and smoking rates among teens has fallen more rapidly than any other age group. Anecdotally, I see fewer smokers on the street than I did even five years ago and it's a very positive sign.
Seatbelts. Most people have a story from their childhood where the entire family crammed into Grandpa Joe's station wagon, with not nearly enough seatbelts (if there were any) to go around. Today, we know that's unacceptable and that even a quick trip around the block requires you to buckle up. Transport Canada reports that seat belt use has increased in the past two decades and that 95 per cent of Canadians are using their seat belts in a vehicle. As seat belt use is rising, fatalities are declining.
STOP! Clean Your Hands Day is our attempt to highlight the dangers in not cleaning your hands, not only in healthcare, but in our communities, as well. It's our opportunity to declare that it is unacceptable and that we must change the current rates of hand hygiene dramatically.
With that, let's all take a moment to clean our hands, and encourage our friends and family to do the same.
Yours in patient safety,