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As a patient entering a hospital, you always assume that the hospital setting is a sterile and very clean environment. Is that really the case? Alarming stories are circulated about the risk of infection during a typical hospital stay. Unfortunately, infection is often the risk of the procedure or surgery. In a recent Consumer Reports survey, “about 4 percent of patients told us they saw problems with hospital cleanliness, compared with 28 percent of nurses. Thirteen percent of patients said that their care wasn’t coordinated properly, but 38 percent of nurses said that was a problem. Five percent of patients, but 26 percent of nurses, said hospital staff sometimes did not wash their hands.” Nurses have a better behind the scenes perspective of what really goes on, so do not be afraid to ask questions about your care and about those taking care of you.
So, is it okay to ask your doctor to wash his hands? Absolutely. Any hospital staff should routinely wash their hands before treating you. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention healthcare workers should wash their hands (or use alcohol gel) before they treat you, and if they don’t, you should remind them. Even if you are not feeling well, asking politely will encourage a good relationship with the doctor and hospital staff. Simply saying that “you have heard a lot about infections in hospitals these days, and I need to take care of myself, so could I ask you if you washed your hands before you came in. If not it would make me feel much better if you could.” Many hospitals have campaigns to encourage patients to speak up and not to be shy. Staying in a hospital that is not over crowded and that has a higher ratio of staff to patients is also a good way to get the treatment you deserve and reduce your risk of infection.
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