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The Upper Hand On Your Health

Proper Hand Hygiene And Antibiotic Use:
A Sturdy Memorial Hospital Initiative

Try to remember all the things you touched since the last time you washed your hands. You may have turned a doorknob, picked up a telephone, squeezed a gas pump handle, or even held onto a handlebar while standing inside a train or subway. And if you shook someone else's hand, imagine the things they could have touched. Now, if you eat or prepare food, or touch your face, the germs you picked up since the last time you washed your hands could make you or other people sick.

Unless, of course, you wash or decontaminate your hands. Again.

Sturdy Memorial Hospital has taken on the initiative in the Hospital and community to increase awareness about frequent and proper hand hygiene, which is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of many types of infection and illness, including influenza. The Hospital is also dedicated to educating caregivers and the public about the proper use of antibiotics to prevent antibiotic resistance, one of the United State's most pressing public health problems, to preserve the effectiveness of these medications for when they are needed.

Combined, frequently washing or decontaminating hands and using antibiotics only for illnesses they are able to treat - bacterial - will help safeguard our health. Sturdy Memorial has adopted this issue as a public service priority.

Hand Hygiene Awareness

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing hands for 20 seconds with regular soap and warm water or, if unavailable, using hand sanitizer with an alcohol base. Click here for more information about proper hand hygiene.

Staff education is constant at Sturdy Memorial to reinforce the importance of hand hygiene, and recurrent verbal reminders as well as visual reinforcements advocate hand hygiene among staff, patients, and visitors. To reduce the incidence of hospital acquired antibiotic resistant organisms, regular audits are performed to ensure compliance in proper hand hygiene among staff on the nursing units and in the Emergency Care Center. Additionally, staff encourage patients to ask their providers if they have washed their hands.

To combat community acquired antibiotic resistance, a campaign is underway to encourage good hand hygiene in the community, particularly in germ "hot spots" such as gyms and fitness centers, schools, and day care centers. Promoting proper and frequent hand hygiene practices will help people protect themselves and others from infection.

Antibiotic Use and Education

Many people perceive antibiotics as a quick cure-all, though this is not the case. When administered for viruses, antibiotics are not simply ineffective, but can have long-term consequences. The need for more expensive and aggressive medications, serious illnesses, and extended hospital stays can be the result of antibiotic overuse. Sturdy Memorial physicians are proactively assessing their antibiotic prescription writing practices and are educating patients about the harm in using antibiotics for illnesses they cannot treat.

Sick patients may feel ill at ease or believe little or nothing is accomplished if they leave a doctor's visit without a prescription. Sturdy Memorial doctors work to reassure these patients and help them understand that sometimes, over-the-counter fever and pain reducing medications, rest, and drinking plenty of liquids while the virus takes its course are the necessary treatment protocols - not antibiotics.

The Hospital's Antibiotic Stewardship Program manages appropriate use of antibiotics and monitors proper dosages for patients in the Hospital. By monitoring antibiotic treatment and restricting its use to only necessary cases, Sturdy Memorial is helping to restrain the amount and types of bacteria that are becoming resistant to antibiotics, therefore reducing the consequences of this large-scale issue.

Sturdy Memorial Hospital's initiatives to increase proper hand hygiene and decrease improper use of antibiotics are intended to promote better health in the community. For more information about hand washing, visit the CDC's website at www.cdc.gov/cleanhands, and to learn more about antibiotic overuse and resistance, visit www.cdc.gov/getsmart.