Male hospital staff lax on handwashing: study
NEW YORK, Jan 16 (Reuters Health) - Studies have found that men are less strict about handwashing than women are, and new research suggests that the cleanliness gender gap extends to the medical profession.
Australian researchers found that in their institution's critical care unit, male healthcare workers washed their hands one-third less often than female workers did after contact with an invasive instrument or a patient's skin, blood or "excretions."
But the sex difference was not seen across all the professions, according to Thea van de Mortel and colleagues at Southern Cross University in Lismore.
Male and female nurses had similarly high handwashing rates after patient contact.
As for doctors, women washed their hands 88% of the time, compared with just 54% among men. Female ward workers washed up nearly twice as often their male counterparts, and female radiographers practiced hand hygiene more often than males, the report indicates.
Physical therapists were the most vigilant of all. Both men and women washed their hands after every patient contact observed in the study, according to findings published in a recent issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.
Handwashing is a basic way to limit the spread of germs in any environment. A number of studies in the general population have shown that women and girls are more likely than men and boys to wash their hands in a germ-filled situation, such as after using the bathroom, the researchers point out.
The authors note that these results follow that trend, with the exception of nurses and physical therapists. And they speculate that "cultural" differences among the health professions might explain the various handwashing practices.
"Pinpointing how these cultural differences arise may provide a means of boosting handwashing frequency," van de Mortel and colleagues write.
Handwashing in the study was assessed by "covert" observers from the staff. They followed the handwashing practices of 156 men and 93 women across all hospital shifts, for 3 months.
SOURCE: American Journal of Infection Control 2001;29:395-399.
WE nurses have known this for years! HOW can we break this poor habit???????