Ebola Reminds Us About the Importance of Asking Clinicians to Wash, Says PULSE of NY

The Ebola outbreak highlights the fact that hospital-acquired infections of other kinds are still a problem in this country. Patients and families have to make sure clinicians have washed hands before touching them, according to PULSE of NY.

With the Ebola outbreak fresh in everyone’s minds, there is no better time to remind the public that hospital-acquired infections are still a problem in this country.

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 1.7 million Americans develop hospital-acquired infections each year, and 99,000 die of HAIs annually (http://www.ahrq.gov/research/findings/factsheets/errors-safety/haiflyer/index.html).      Still, patients and their family members are uncomfortable asking a medical professional to wash their hands – and often they don’t.

Medical staff know they need to wash their hands; patients are being told to insist on it.

Ilene Corina, President, PULSE of NY

Ilene Corina, President and founder of PULSE of NY, a community-based patient safety organization, has been teaching patient safety tips since 1996. She focuses on the critical communication that can save lives.

“I’m sure you did already, but before you put the gloves on, I would appreciate seeing you wash your hands,” Corina advises patients (or the loved ones who advocate for them) to say. “Putting healthcare staff at ease and not playing a ‘gotcha’ game will give the medical team an opportunity to say they did wash but will do it again,” Corina explains.

Medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the country and hospital-acquired infections are costing the economy as much as $33 billion a year. It has been proven that hospitals with vigorous hand washing initiatives drop their rates of hospital-acquired infections.



“To make it work and not feel uncomfortable, patients should make it about themselves and not about the doctor who didn’t wash,” Corina continues.  She tells her patient safety advocacy classes to say, “I would feel better or safer if I saw you do it,” thus putting medical professionals at ease. Anticipating that the clinician will be embarrassed to be asked makes it a step easier.

Patients often say they are uncomfortable asking but if it is a matter of life and death — and these days it is — hand washing has become a serious safety precaution. Most important, “Medical staff know they need to wash their hands; patients are being told to insist on it.”

Ilene Corina is President of PULSE of NY, a community-based patient safety organization. She is a board member of the National Patient Safety Foundation, The Joint Commission, and the Council on Patient Safety in Women’s Healthcare. She graduated from the AHA/NPSF Patient Safety Leadership Training in 2009. Corina founded PULSE of NY following the death of her son from a medical injury and infection.

Ilene Corina is available for interviews at 516-579-4711 (office) or 516-650-2421 (cell).