Health Tips: Patients Shy Away from Asking Healthcare Workers to Wash Hands

According to a new study, most patients at risk for healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) agree that healthcare workers should be reminded to wash their hands, but little over half would feel comfortable asking their physicians to wash. The study points to the need for patient empowerment to improve hand hygiene of healthcare workers.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin designed and administered a questionnaire on awareness of HAIs, including information about hand hygiene, to 200 patients who were at risk for or who had a history of infections. Nearly all patients (99.5 percent) believed that healthcare workers were supposed to wash their hands before and after caring for patients. Most (90.5 percent) believed that healthcare workers should be reminded to wash their hands if they forget. However, only 64 percent and 54 percent of patients indicated that they would feel comfortable asking nurses or physicians to wash their hands, respectively. Still fewer patients (14 percent) reported having ever asked a healthcare worker to wash their hands.