Creative Proposal for Spreading Fewer Germs in Hospitals: Fist Bumping

November 30, 2013
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spreading fewer germs in hospitalsFirst published on MedCityNews.com. Here’s an interesting proposal from researchers at West Virginia University School of Medicine: Healthcare could prevent nonsocomial infections by taking a cue from bro culture.

spreading fewer germs in hospitalsFirst published on MedCityNews.com. Here’s an interesting proposal from researchers at West Virginia University School of Medicine: Healthcare could prevent nonsocomial infections by taking a cue from bro culture.

In a study published in The Journal of Hospital Infection this fall (you can read the paper full paper here without a subscription), researchers found that fewer germs were transmitted between healthcare workers when they bumped fists instead of shaking hands.

Innovation is all about creative thinking, so let’s give this a chance. After all, hospitals have identified infections as a huge problem that has warranted massive efforts to get workers to comply with handwashing protocols.

Here’s what the researchers wrote:

“We have determined that implementing the fist bump in the healthcare setting may further reduce bacterial transmission between healthcare providers by reducing contact time and total surface area exposed when compared with the standard handshake.”

To get there, they had two healthcare workers wash their hands, travel through a hospital and shake hands with 20 other healthcare workers, then plate their hands. Then those healthcare workers repeated the procedure with a fist bump instead of a handshake, plating their fist instead of their palm afterward.

After incubating the plates for 72 hours, the researchers counted the colony forming units on each plate. Colonization was four times greater on the palm than on the fist, they reported.

There are lots of limitations of this study — two subjects is by no means a thorough sample size, and the researchers reported only one piece of data. That leaves a lot of questions unanswered. How would the results compare if patients or visitors from outside of the hospital were included? Is increased colonization tied to increased disease risk?

 

No one’s suggesting healthcare ditch the handwashing efforts, but this light-hearted suggestion is worth considering.

 [Image credit: Flickr user US Army]