Wednesday, December 13, 2006

December Shout-Outs

While you’re decking the bells and jingling the halls, remember that the season is also about Aplastic Anemia Awareness Week (Dec. 1-7, a serious but treatable blood disease), Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month (my #1 training ride fear is an inattentive or impaired driver), Hand Washing Awareness Week (Dec. 3-9), Safe Toys & Gifts Month (YOU’LL SHOOT YOUR EYE OUT!) and World AIDS Day (Dec. 1st.)

And on the subject of hand washing… As a health care leader, it’s personally and profoundly embarrassing that industry-wide hand washing compliance rates lag so badly. After all, it’s only a simple, low-cost, low-tech (yet hugely effective) method of improving patient safety. Damn it, man! We’ve got important stuff to do! No time to wash!

Even more disheartening is the fact that hand washing compliance rates are especially low among physicians, the most visible, highly-educated and well-paid members of the care team. Yes, these self-anointed “Captains of the Ship” apparently (a) never listened to their mother’s advice to wash up before dinner, and (b) still believe that having M.D. on their business card confers immunity from the basic laws of microbiology.

And so, as usual, the industry tries to improve things by launching a thousand quality improvement teams. We gather data, we redesign patient rooms while architects argue whether sinks are best in THIS corner or THAT, we give elaborate PowerPoint presentations to important-sounding committees, we write and re-write policies and still we can’t raise hand washing rates above 70%.

Time to say “Hey Captain, er, Doctor, wash your damn hands or I’ll f****** kill you.” Just like Mom used to say.

Beelzebug (n): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

Decafalon (n): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

What I’m reading: “The Fifth Discipline” by Peter Senge. Fixing the learning-disabled organization.

iPod shuffle: “Blacklisted” by Neko Case, from “The Tigers Have Spoken.” I love how her smokey voice soars over her music’s downcast beauty. Plus she’s from Chicago.

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