Many surgeons don't wash their hands, field study reveals

One in five surgeons failed to wash their hands after using the bathroom, according to a field study at a surgical conference in the U.S.

The results of the study, conducted by Danish researchers, were published in a Danish weekly medical journal and covered by Science Nordic. For the field study, researchers covertly observed 50 surgeons in the bathroom during the conference, and 10 of them did not wash their hands before leaving.

"This is extremely worrying and is not acceptable," Jacob Rosenberg, a study co-author, professor of medicine at the University of Copenhagen and surgeon in Denmark, told Science Nordic. "You could argue that hand hygiene isn't so important so long as the surgeons are just attending a conference, but if they behave in the same way in their everyday lives as medical practitioners when they're dealing with patients, there's a risk of infection."

To make a point, researchers also conducted a field study at a conference for medical writers in Sacramento, Calif. Only one of the 50 observed conference attendees failed to wash their hands. Researchers attributed this high rate of hand hygiene compliance with the fact that medical writers tend to be highly educated "whereas very few surgeons have a formal scientific education," the researchers wrote.

Also, all of the surgeons observed in the first field study were men, while 40 percent of the observed medical writers were women.

More articles on hand hygiene:
Care for yourself before others: A lesson for healthcare providers during flu season
Taking hand hygiene high-tech
The 10 most popular hand hygiene stories of 2014

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