I was stunned. I had just walked into an exam room when my middle aged woman patient confronted me:
“Hello Dr. Benabio. Would you mind washing your hands?”
“I did just wash my hands,” I replied.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t see you wash them,”she retorted.
This is a problem. I always wash my hands before seeing a patient — either with soap and water, or with the antibacterial alcohol gel we have outside each exam room. But when I walk into the room, my hands are already dry. What’s a doc to do?
- Introduce myself, then quickly go over to the sink and start washing?
- Introduce myself by saying: “Hello, I’m Dr. Benabio. I’m sorry I’m late, I was just outside washing my hands”?
- Have my nurse say loudly before each patient, “Dr. Benabio, nobody washes their hands as thoroughly as you do!”
I think most of my patients trust me (my shoes are always shined). But a tip I saw from Skin and Aging might help in some instances. It recommended that doctors wash their hands then open the door with paper towel and throw the towel away in front of the patient.
Of course, then my patient might think, “Oh great, my doctor just came back from the bathroom.” Sometimes you just can’t win.