Skill: All

Question: Are you supposed to wash your hands before touching ANYTHING in the patient’s room?

Answer: No. You wash your hands at the beginning of the skill to prevent the spread of germs from you to the patient and you wash your hands at the end of every skill to prevent the spread of germs from the patient to you.

The privacy curtain is touched by all healthcare workers, patients, visitors, staff members, and others. It is not clean. Patients will scratch what itches and touch the curtain. They will cough and sneeze and particles will land on the curtain. Vomit, urine, feces, wound drainage and other body fluids can transfer onto the curtain from the gloved hands of caregivers and the ungloved hands of family members. And those curtains are only taken down and physically washed about once (or sometimes twice) a year.

Washing your hands before you tell the patient what you are planning on doing and obtaining consent can be construed as intrusive, like you are assuming that they will give consent.

By entering the room, identifying the patient by name, introducing yourself by name and title and describing the skill to be done, you are giving the patient the right to consent or decline without being presumptive. After you get consent, close the curtain and wash your hands. That way, you now have clean hands to gather clean supplies! (Use your elbow at the curtain opening to enter the private area after gathering supplies).

This keeps your hands clean for your patient, protects their right to refuse and treats them like a partner in their care, instead of a victim of your care (patient).