“Please wash your hands, Dr. Benabio”

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?”hand-washing-2.JPG

“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.

9 thoughts on ““Please wash your hands, Dr. Benabio””

  1. Our pediatrician washes his hands in the examining room.

    Asking your doctor or nurse to wash their hands is advice I’ve seen in magazines and in the hospital where I had my youngest. (Which is also the closest to the pediatrician.)

  2. I always see articles in health magazines saying that you should ask your MD to wash their hands in front of you. Don’t take it personally. The media has people so scared of hospital infections that it makes it hard to trust anyone. All of my doctors wash their hands in the exam room and it does make me feel better. Not to mention it gives us a good 20 seconds of small talk time, which is comforting as well. Maybe you could start washing your hands in the exam rooms and look at it as your opportunity to demonstrate good hygiene:)

  3. Ami- It’s probably the number one thing that doctors can do to reduce transmitting diseases, such as MRSA.

  4. Jenstew- Thanks for stopping by and for the thoughtful comment. The main problem with it in my exam rooms is that I have to completely turn my back to the patient to wash my hands, which isn’t the best way to build rapport.

  5. I was also going to say I feel wierd asking and have never done it.

    I never really thought about the rapport. If this helps, the ped talks and takes down the history first, then washes his hands in preparation for the exam. It doesn’t seem too wierd or impolite or anything. Just part of the routine.

  6. Julie Boekers says:

    Dear Dr.,
    A lady who runs a boutique that sells soaps/creams told me that grapeseed oil is the best thing for your face/body. I bought some at wholefoods and use it on my face/body. It does not seem to absorb well on my face and later in the day I have to put on more because my face still seems dry. I am 46 yrs old. Any comments?

  7. Judy Paley says:

    I often meet my patients at the waiting room with hands still slightly wet from washing (not intentional, just paper toweling off on the fly). I say “Sorry, just washed my hands and they’re still a bit wet. Don’t worry, it’s only water!”

  8. From the patient perspective, coming in while still drying with a paper towel is good. I have one doctor who fairly regularly does just that (and uses the towel to open the door) and I never even noticed it until reading this triggered the “oh yeah, Dr. ___ does that” visual. Subconsciously, I’m quite sure I register it and think that the Dr. just washed his hands.

    I think it’s a smart move for a multitude of reasons, and instills a level of confidence.

  9. jenna oakley says:

    While studying Aged Care in Australia I used a hand held device that detected bacteria on my hands.
    Can you tell me the name or have any knowledge on this device?
    Regards, Jenna Oakley

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