Okay, admit it–you DON’T always sanitize or wash your hands before you enter every single patient’s room, or even when you leave it. If a hospital patient is on contact isolation for C. difficile but you only want to ask him a couple of questions without examining him, you don’t always bother with the gown and gloves. And you’re still sneezing at random and refusing to wear those dorky short-sleeved white jackets, let alone bowties. Your Dad taught you to shake hands, and no fist-bumping infection control nurse is gonna change that.
But as of this writing, two American doctors who went to Africa to care for patients with Ebola have contracted the disease. Do you think they didn’t pack plenty of hand sanitizer before they left the States? Or that hand-washing is totally unknown, even in crude facilities?
We doctors ourselves may be a reason for concern about an Ebola epidemic here. Nurses have been too easy on us for too long, sighing resignedly instead of slapping our ungloved hands when we break isolation protocol. Hospital administrators can put up signs to remind us, but should we really need those? After all, we’re the ones who read the articles and texts about the latest viruses and are supposed to know how they’re spread.
The next patient you see with sore throat, fever and a rash probably doesn’t have Ebola. But it would do a lot of good, even to patients without it, if we would start taking infection-control precautions NOW instead of waiting for the headline that is probably coming. Practice may not make perfect, but this is a practice that saves lives.