Are You Washing Your Hands For Long Enough?

I used to consider that I washed my hands very frequently during my working day, as I’m sure we all do due to the nature of our work and the close contact we have with patients.

I used to consider that I washed my hands very thoroughly; now I am all too aware that I was not washing them for a minimum of 20 seconds.

Now, in these days of COVID-19 pandemic, I need to increase both the frequency of washing and the length of time doing it. Also, and this is new, I need to encourage my patients to wash their hands more often too.

The 20 second wash issue is an interesting one; the general advice to “sing happy birthday twice” or to simply look at a watch or clock certainly makes a difference, but I soon found this tedious – how can we make it more interesting, and thus hope to build good habits which we will need to keep up for the foreseeable future?

My personal solution (for now – I know I’ll get bored of this soon, so will have to change…) is to use each wash as an opportunity to channel my inner Lady Macbeth, and declame her famous hand-washing speech, “Out, damned spot” from Shakespeare’s wonderful, if slightly gory, play.

It really is perfect, as she is washing her hands (ok, I admit that usually it’s portrayed as fake washing with no actual water or soap, but hey, the movements are the same) and the soliloquy takes the right sort of length of time.

There is a great website which makes it easy for anyone to create their own handwashing infographic, so if you want to imagine that you are trying to wash the blood of King Duncan off your guilty hands, this is what you need to put up above your workplace sink:

Anyone can create their own hand washing lyric poster!

Check out the Hand Hygiene page on Physiopedia.