Of course you know that handwashing is essential in your job. It prevents the spread of disease and infection. It’s so important that it is included in the CNA Clinical Skills Test. If not done properly, you automatically fail.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gives these instructions:
1. Wet your hands with clean, running water. Turn off the tap, and apply soap.
2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. How long is that? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.
4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water. Keep your hands below your wrists so that the lather drains off your fingers.
5. Dry your hands using a clean paper towel.
6. Use a paper towel to run off the faucet…remember, you turned it on while your hands were dirty!
Although washing your hands seems like an ordinary task, scientists study the impact it has on you, your family, your patients, and your community. Here are some research findings:
• Diarrhea and respiratory illnesses, including pneumonia, are the two most common sources of contamination. Just by washing their hands, people can prevent 33% of diarrhea-related sickness and 20% of respiratory infections.
• Feces, from both people and animals, are a major source of contamination. Just one gram, the same weight as a paperclip, can contain one trillion germs. That’s 1,000,000,000,000! Every time a toilet is flushed with the lid up, a fine mist with dangerous bacteria, such as E. Coli, covers an area of more than 60 square feet.
• When people practice good handwashing, the use of antibiotics is reduced because there are fewer infections to treat. Because germs are becoming resistant to antibiotics, it’s better to avoid taking them unless absolutely necessary.
• Teaching children and their families to wash their hands actually improves school attendance by up to 50% and helps children function better, because they are healthy and able to learn.
• 95% of people claim they know how to wash their hands. However, a study that observed people in public restrooms proved otherwise. 33% didn’t use any soap and the average time spent was only six seconds. Men were worse than women: 15% didn’t wash their hands and when they did, only 50% used soap.
The importance of handwashing wasn’t known until 1847, when an obstetrician named Dr. Semmelweiss noticed that when he and his staff washed their hands and wore clean clothes, the rate of infections in newborn babies dropped. Sadly, when he tried to convince other doctors that cleanliness prevented the spread of infections, they declared him crazy and committed him to an insane asylum.
Over two hundred years later, we thank Dr. Semmelweiss for his efforts. Handwashing is an efficient and low-cost way to keep yourself and others healthy. You can help by continuing to use proper technique and teaching others to do the same. It really does save lives!
Try reviewing the course material on the spread of micro-organisms from our course library.
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