In a placement during my second year when I was working on a surgical ward, I was working under the supervision of my mentor, caring for a seventy-two year old gentleman, Mr Khan (pseudonym), who had undergone abdominal surgery. I had been asked to remove his wound dressing so that the doctor could assess it on the ward round.
I removed the dressing under my mentor's supervision, using a non-touch procedure, and cleaned the wound, as requested by the doctor. My mentor was called to another patient at this point, so at her request I stayed with Mr Khan while we waited for the doctor to come to see him.
The doctor had been with another patient, examining their wound, and I noticed that she came straight to Mr Khan to examine his wound, without either washing her hands or using alcohol gel first. I also noticed that she was wearing a long-sleeved shirt, and I was concerned that the cuffs could be contaminated. I thought for a moment about what to do or say, but by the time I had summoned enough courage to say something, I thought it was too late as she was already examining Mr Khan.
I was alarmed by this, as I had expected the doctor to wash her hands or use alcohol gel before examining Mr Khan. However, I felt intimidated because I felt that the doctor was more experienced than me as a second year nursing student; and I didn't want to embarrass her. Also, I didn't want to make Mr Khan concerned by confronting the doctor in front of him.
Later, I spoke to my mentor about the incident. She suggested that we speak to the doctor together about it. My mentor took the doctor aside, and asked her whether she had washed her hands before examining Mr Khan. She looked quite shocked. She said that she had been very busy and hadn't thought about it. My mentor discussed the importance of hand hygiene with her, and the doctor assured her that she would
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wash her hands...