My theme this week is small things that make a big difference.
This month, I’ve been teaching Office Procedures I to small groups of 1st year Medical students at U.B.C.
Although most of the afternoon is spent demonstrating and supervising their first subcutaneous, intramuscular and intradermal injections into oranges and Roma tomatoes without accidentally poking themselves and each other, we spent some time talking about universal precautions.
It’s hard to believe that in the distant past, doctors didn’t glove or even wash their hands between examining patients, including women in labour. Ignaz Semmelweis was a Hungarian physician who discovered why doctors’ wards in his hospital’s obstetrical clinic had three times the mortality of the midwives’ wards. He pioneered hand disinfection with chlorinated lime solutions in 1847 and demonstrated a drastic reduction in mortality.
His radical ideas were not accepted by the medical establishment, and he died ironically of septicemia in an asylum.
Tomorrow: How to Wash Your Hands