Nurses wash their hands more often than doctors

December 18, 2003

Nurses are more conscientious handwashers than doctors, finds a study in this week's Christmas issue of the BMJ. Hand washing is a quick, cheap and easy way of preventing the spread of infection.

Identical soap dispensers were installed next to the sinks in the consulting room of each member of a primary care surgery in Cardiff (two nurses and three doctors).

The soap dispensers were all filled to the same level on the same day at the start of the study. Over one year, the amount of soap used and the number of consultations for each member of the team were recorded to calculate the ratio of handwashes to patients seen.

Nursing staff showed greater attention to personal hygiene than doctors. The best performing nurse washed her hands at least twice as often (or twice as thoroughly) as the best performing doctor.

These results will not necessarily reflect handwashing practices in all teams but form a basis on which others may conduct similar audits, suggests the author. At the Christmas party, guess who will be serving the cake.


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