Hospitals for Patient Safety, and those who cry wolf

I work in a hospital and our main concern is Patient Safety. Our “world” is all about keeping infections down to zero, and it is very hard to do when you have so many people coming in and out of the facility. Harder still is when staff members defy, bend or ignore the rules. Muslimah Media Watch posted the case of one such Hospital worker who says she was being discriminated against as a Muslim because of the facility’s “bare to the elbows” policy to try to stave off infections.

If you work in a Hospital the rules and regulations are for the safety of patients first and employees second. It has nothing to do with religious discrimination, but too many people and a growing number of Muslims among them cry wolf when bending, ignoring or defying the rules. They forget the reason they work in a hospital; to save peoples lives- not to expose them to infections that can be life threatening. If you can’t adhere to the Hippocratic oath of “First Do No Harm” then a hospital setting is the last place you should be working in.

As a Muslimah who wears hijab, I wear scrubs for a good part of the morning- yes- bare to the elbows and beyond because of how scrubs are traditionally constructed. For one you have to scrub-in and that means cleaning up to your elbows so no bacteria hides on you or in your sterile clothes. In our hospital it means everyone working in the clinical areas- most importantly the Operating Theatres, Intensive Care Units, and recovery rooms- have to be as sterile as possible, be you nurse, doctor, clerk or transport. Your aim in this is to safeguard the person who has willing put themselves in your care.

But this whole issue of it being against Islamic edicts is just another way, in my view, of making a stink where there should be none. Its a common thing now- you don’t like the rule- say you are being discriminated against. Being Muslim does not give you an automatic purview to do as you please by going against the rules of establishment when those rules are not with religious content but administrative and medical mandates. May I remind people that these hospital mandates are universal.

We won’t let any person touch a patient if their wrist length shirts or scrubs or lab coats show signs of dirt, blood or human sweat. Hygiene is an absolute must- but what is not, is the participation of employees who feel their particular religious tendencies are above saving or caring for a person’s life.

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7 Responses to “Hospitals for Patient Safety, and those who cry wolf”

  1. September 7, 2008 at 3:52 am

    INAL, you make some great points. I’m a medical student, going into my 2nd year, and so far have not had to be in this situation. I’m not sure yet when/where hospitals in my local NHS trust require you to bear below the elbows, apart from surgery obviously, as from my observations, all the doctors in the wards were in full sleeves. Guess I should look into it! But I agree with you, when patients are concerned, then obviously their safety comes first! Just imagine if you were to be responsible for death/illness all because you refused to bare below the elbows!

  2. 2 INAL
    September 7, 2008 at 4:34 am

    Welcome Jana

    Our hospitals from our corporation have an aggressive hand hygiene campaign; there are dispensers every where! Patients are encouraged to ask doctors and nurses if they have washed their hands when they enter the room. We have mini bottles of Purell hanging from our IDs and even have secret shoppers for hand hygiene; we note who washes up or not before or after seeing a patient.

    But it depends on the hospital and their incidences of C-diff and MRSA that dictates how aggressive they are on Infection Control. In our case, we are a 900+ bed hospital with a large ER and Trauma so we really push for hygiene.

    Its these cases where the staff members bend the rules that can make administration crazy…

    Let’s just hope people really see the issue for what it is and not complicate it as this woman wants to.

  3. September 7, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Man, I just LOVE those handwashes! During my work experience I would come and go and use them, even if I didn’t have to, made me feel proffessional 😀 It sounds like your hospital is far stricter than the ones I’ve been in, but then again I’ve not paid attention to this issue when in the larger hospitals.

    P.s. My blog is called ‘Hijab Style’ 😀

  4. 5 basbousa
    September 8, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    Great post. Ofcourse patient safety always comes first!

  5. 6 Aphid
    September 9, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    Interesting– I just read an article about this today in the NYT. It seems that there’s not much evidence though that short sleeves will actually cut infection rates. So maybe I wouldn’t be helping anyone by flashing my arms, after all 🙂 Check it out: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/08/do-you-really-want-to-see-your-doctors-elbows/

  6. 7 INAL
    September 10, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    Welcome Aphid

    The important question remains, Did you Wash Your Hands? The important thing isn’t your elbows- its the germs you carry and how that impacts patient care and infection control…the rest is really incidental.

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