LTC crisis facing LTC

Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz

I feel a little dirty even talking about this. But there's disconcerting news from the world of hand washing, and no amount of anti-microbial goo will sanitize some very frightening statistics about LTC — lousy thumb cleaning.

According to McKnight's, a completely hygienic news source in which I place a high degree of trust, a large number of healthcare workers are actually missing their thumbs when they disinfect their hands. It happens about 37% of the time, a seemingly reputable study published in the American Journal of Infection Control suggests.

I'm a skeptical scientist at heart, so after reading this, I went straight for the pump of hand sanitizer. Attempting to replicate actual laboratory conditions, minus a white coat and a monkey, I dispensed a quarter-size dollop into my palm and rubbed my hands together absent-mindedly in a habitual fashion. Not wanting to skew my results, I was very careful to give this act the usual inattention.

But still, and I don't wish to sound smug or superior here, I found it very difficult to avoid cleaning my thumbs. I carefully observed their chummy attachment to my hands, and how they moved in close collaboration with nearby fingers. The whole team of 10 appeared to work very well together, as a well-moistened machine, and I sincerely believe they all got clean.

Admittedly, I didn't have the same high-tech lab equipment — a UV lamp and a box of latex gloves — those researchers apparently used to hand check more than 700 clinicians. But still, I have absolute trust in my rigorously obtained data. I'm the guy, after all, who stuck my head out the window and immediately determined, once and for all time, that climate change is a hoax.

The sad part is that not only have these researchers cast aspersions on the cleanliness of the healthcare thumb, but on the whole metacarpal region. In another wild accusation supported only by their meticulous use of the scientific method, they claim study participants also did a bad job with fingertips and the back of the hands — 44% of the time — and that only 9% percent actually rubbed their hands correctly.

But before we panic, please keep in mind that this study came from a teaching hospital in Spain. I have no way of knowing how many of those 700 healthcare workers were also bull fighters, which as you know can be very grimy, thumb-intensive work indeed.

So what's the solution for combatting LTC in LTC? The answer is simple: Honor the thumbs. “In the absence of any other proof,” Sir Isaac Newton once said, “the thumb alone would convince me of God's existence.” And since cleanliness is next to godliness, clean it like you mean it.

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in the 2014 Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He has amused, informed and sometimes befuddled long-term care readers worldwide since his debut with the former SNALF.com at the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.

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Things I Think

Things I Think is written by longtime industry columnist Gary Tetz, who resides in Portland, OR. Since his debut with SNALF.com at the end of a previous century, he has continued to amuse, inform and sometimes befuddle long-term care readers worldwide.

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