By Diane Forrest, RN
The very first thing they teach you in nursing school is how to wash your hands. You may be thinking by the time you are in college you should have already learned this. Well there is a certain technique to washing your hands at the hospital. They even have special sinks that you operate with your leg or foot. Hand washing it the first line of defense in preventing the spread of germs. You have to turn on warm water, pump out the soap, vigorously rub your hands together up to your arms for at least a minute, then rinse with your hands pointed down so that the soapy water doesn’t run back up to your arms. Then use a paper towel to dry, and another towel to turn off the sink. You wash when you enter a room, and before leaving the room.
Scrub nurses have an even more complicated technique. They must wash for 3 minutes, from fingers to elbows, using a scrub brush. Along with the brush there is a file to clean under the fingernails. Gloves are applied immediately after washing and drying, sometimes sterile gloves, sometimes just "clean" gloves will do.
If you have been in a hospital lately you might see these cans fastened to the wall outside patient's rooms. These cans contain a hand cleaning foam that don't require water, and it dries on your hands. While some people may like this, I find that it dries the skin. You want to make sure your hands are lubricated with lotion because drying will cause cracks in the skin and allow bacteria to move in.
From the time a child is able to reach the sink, they should be taught how to wash their hands. Of course they should be helped with hand washing before they can do it on their own. Hands should be washed after using the bathroom, before eating or preparing food, after playing and anytime during the day when the hands come in contact with unclean items.
This week is National Hand washing Awareness Week. Try to make a conscious effort to wash your hands during the day, and if you aren’t able to wash your hands, keep them out of your eyes and off of food before you are able to properly wash them, or carry little bottles of hand sanitizer with you. And remember, one of the most important measures for preventing the spread of germs is effective hand washing.