Members in the Media
From: The Wall Street Journal

Changing One Word to Get Health-Care Workers to Wash Their Hands.

The Wall Street Journal:

Ah, the simple act of hand-washing. It’s a simple, cheap way to prevent spreading infection in hospitals. And yet, research suggests compliance with so-called “hand hygiene” guidelines is less than 50% in many hospitals.

Proposed solutions have included penalizing doctors and nurses who don’t follow the rules, sending in undergrad volunteers to look over the shoulders of staff, using video surveillance to identify offenders and employing high-tech sensors to gauge whether a health-care worker has recently used alcohol gel.

Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist and associate professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, had a different idea. When he spent time in the hospital for the birth of his first daughter, he noticed signs telling personnel to wash their hands — and also noted a flaw.

All of them emphasized hand-washing (or using alcohol gel) as a way to protect the health-care worker from getting sick. But “people are resistant to recognizing personal health threats,” Grant tells the Health Blog. They don’t believe it will happen to them — particularly since they can look back and recall plenty of times when they didn’t wash up and didn’t get sick.

He and his co-author, David Hofmann of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, tested a different approach: emphasizing patient health. In a paper that will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science, they describe two experiments that pitted a sign stating that “Hand hygiene prevents you from catching diseases” against one stating that “Hand hygiene prevents patients from catching diseases.”

Read the whole story: The Wall Street Journal

More of our Members in the Media >


Ah, very interesting! It could work…. I volunteer at a hospital (can’t say which one) and observe a lot of course (as a volunteer), but you’re right, I have noticed that when I am at the hospital and helping, I tend to gear my brain to think about what others may need and think about how I can best meet their requests, whether it’s staff asking for help or whether it’s a patient asking for help. It seems logical that a nurse or doctor, whose job it is to think about their patients’ health, is going to be constantly thinking about their patients’ status but not necessarily and/or constantly their own health.

It would be interesting to see how it turns out!

APS regularly opens certain online articles for discussion on our website. Effective February 2021, you must be a logged-in APS member to post comments. By posting a comment, you agree to our Community Guidelines and the display of your profile information, including your name and affiliation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations present in article comments are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of APS or the article’s author. For more information, please see our Community Guidelines.

Please login with your APS account to comment.