It's true, dear readers.
You see, at some point before I started medical school, the NHS decided to promote the use of alcohol hand gel before and after patient contact to reduce the spread of infectious disease. I'm sure someone has proved its effectiveness, and that can only be good, the fact that it has left a generation of staff with allergic dermatitis and that it is not effective against C.diff (which doesn't need any help to spread around) notwithstanding. Personally, I would rather there were more sinks, so that I could properly wash my hands around, but apparently people weren't using them or something.
I think it's good common sense to wash your hands between patients. Folk should wash their hands anyway. It's just nice, and not icky. But, here is my problem, as I explained to the last infection control nurse to teach me to wash my hands (I've been taught 11 times since I started med school...) :
I see a patient, I pick up my stick, I wash my hands, I pick up my stick, thus all the patient germies hang around.
She gave me a look that said "this is not on my algorithm", and then said that I should wipe my stick with a Tuffie wipe between each patient. This makes sense, except that Tuffie wipes all seem to come in tubs of 5 million (and with my stick I already have one less hand to carry stuff), that this means I take longer between patients than everyone else, and the ward round waits for no student, and that I would have to buy them out of my own pocket.
I explained what I had been doing - that is putting a surgical glove (which are all over the wards) over the stick handle each time I wash my hands. This seems an imperfect solution - it's really wasteful, the gloves aren't sterile (people will stick their hands in to the box to get a glove without washing first), and it makes me look silly...
She didn't like this idea (but couldn't explain why) and thought I should use Tuffie wipes. Which hasn't happened for aforementioned reasons.
The other option is to put gloves on every time I see a patient, taking them off before I pick up my stick. This combines two of the earlier problems - gloves not being sterile, and carrying something else around in my one free hand - plus the fact that I don't like making patients feel like lepers from the Bible. I found a newspaper article in the depths of the internet that said that this was the approach taken by a wheelie medic - but on wheels you have more capacity for carrying stuff around.
It's confusing and horrible to feel like I'm not perfectly conforming with a policy that people are so obsessed with. People also comment on it left, right and centre - either telling me off, or telling me I've found an ingenius solution.
That's the major IC issue, but there are others. "Bare below the elbows", brought in in Scotland in 2006, means that I can't wear splints, supports or bandages on fingers, hands or wrists. It's also caused problems for colleagues because of scarring.
I've shown here that I don't have simple answers to these problems, and I don't expect anyone else to - it's just that noone's thought about it. It seems assessing the equality and diversity impact of a policy only relates to patients and not staff. Noone has considered wheelies, or stick users, or splints etc. It's a really isolating feeling when everyone you ask double takes, and says "oh, I hadn't thought of that".