by Rose Rohloff
The greatest surface for cleanliness is the hands of all personnel within any healthcare providing environment. There have been arguments with the increase of hospital acquired infections (HAIs) that there needs to be expensive initiatives for reminder programs to wash hands, or to institute check list programs for clinicians to stop and go through a clean protocol before performing care. However, there is a flaw and unnecessary high expense to this approach.
Recently, the April 2007 story of Chief Mike Day, Navy SEAL, has been recirculated. The incident involved Day being shot point blank, 27 times (11 in his vest and 16 times into his body), within a 12 x 12-foot room, the gun fight occurring within seconds at a range of ten feet. After his rifle was shot out of his hands, he grabbed his pistol, remaining in the fight, taking out the four insurgents, and then becoming stunned being hit by a grenade fragment. Upon regaining awareness, he immediately inquired if the room was clear, and then walked himself to the evacuation helicopter. In one of his interviews, he stated, “I just went to work, it was muscle memory, I just did what I was trained to do.” “… into a gun fight, I feel more comfortable in that situation, I feel more comfortable, I don’t think, I don’t have to think in that situation, I just react.”
Day’s statements exemplify an important component that has been lost in healthcare training - that of muscle, or specifically, movement memory. Clinicians are supposed to be trained in school regarding the need and proper technique for handwashing. More importantly, clinicians used to have extensive clinical time working in patient areas developing the movement memory for proper hand washing, and automatically keeping in mind what is clean vs. dirty, where established sterile fields are located with maintaining of sterile gloved hands. The training was extensive and repetitive, for clinicians to automatically move appropriately in fast paced, life threatening situations - to not have to think and just act. One common, simple example is the insertion of IVs for fluid administration or needles for drawing blood. The needle or IV cannula (the needle with covered sheath inserted into the vein) is sterile, with clinicians wearing nonsterile gloves. The skin is typically wiped with alcohol to clean, and then all too often clinicians press nonsterile gloved fingers on the cleaned skin to feel for the vein; thus, contaminating the cleaned surface of the patient’s skin where insertion directly into their vein will occur. Even though the nurse/doctor is wearing clean gloves, they are not sterile, and worn to protect the clinician. With repetitive movement training, clinicians would press to find the vein before properly cleaning the skin, and clean their gloved fingers at the same time as the patient’s skin.
Two frequent complaints often heard from patients, "They dug around in my arm and could not find the vein, it was so painful." "They poked me five times because they did not know what they were doing." Blood draws and starting IVs is a skill, just like shooting at a target or in high stress a gun fight, that requires proper training of technique, and more importantly, repetitive practice - especially with the understanding when someone's life depends upon it. Additionally, the conditioned good technique should be second nature to purge ALL air from needles and tubing, including from the side ports of IV tubing, to prevent the potentially fatal embolus as a hospital acquired condition (HAC).
With the great reduction of hands on clinical time in schools (with replacement of online theory, population/global health, writing, and shadowing nurses), this movement memory training has been lost, with the shift of cost to hospitals for training, buying expensive monitoring equipment, or addressing the subsequent HAIs/HACs. Bringing the ingrained, repetitive movement training back to school training would instill within clinicians and CNA/PCT caregivers the instinctual, reactionary awareness of dirty versus clean or sterile, and proper IV/needle insertion, while delivering care; whether normal daily care or imminent life versus death situations – because they just do what they are trained to do without having to stop and think through quality actions.
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