Friday, December 05, 2008

Bare Below the Elbow

Another great 'evidence based' piece of guidance, condemning wristwatches and rings to the same bin as ties and white coats.

Personally, I like a white coat, and when I started out was able to get a fresh, clean one from the sewing room daily. Seems like a good idea, no? But cheaper not to, and just fuck 'em, instead.

The idea that disease is caused by organisms, and organisms that can be transmitted by hand seems commonplace now, but is, in fact, relatively new. This doesn't stop the idea that making me roll up my sleeves will prevent nosocomial infection being, simultaneously, clutched at by infection control nurses as the next big thing, and utter cock.

Where does it all begin?

Who is the daddy of cleanliness?

May I propose Ignaz Semmelweis. (1818 - 1865)

In my experience, very few infection control specialists have heard of him; and fewer DoH inspectors. History? Why should we care about the past...?

Alexander Gordon, and Oliver Wendell Holmes both had an idea that sepsis after childbirth (puerperal fever) might be caused by the introduction of 'putrid matter' by the delivering doctor or midwife. Influential practitioners such as Charles Meigs were quick to deny this idea.

Semmelweis however, working at the world's biggest maternity clinic in Vienna, found it hard to deny the evidence before his eyes. Those mothers attended to by medical students had a far higher rate of puerperal sepsis than those attended by midwives.

His suspicions increased when a colleague died after cutting his finger during an autopsy.

By introducing something as simple as routine hand washing, he was able to slash mortality rates. His work was published, but largely unrecognised by his contemporaries, and it is sad to report he died in a mental institute.

Hand washing, yes. Rolling my sleeves up...? Still waitin' for the evidence.


Kate said...

I've got some dingy coat sleeves you could culture to support your hypothesis!

-A regretful non-roller

tracy said...

Yes, Semmelweiss!!! Ever since i heard his story, way back in college in a Medical Sociology class, i have been a fan and felt so bad that no one accepted his theory...i am always happy when i see someone bring up his name on a blog...thanks! (sorry if i spelled his name incorrectly!)