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A Piece of My Mind
April 18, 2012

Ask Me If I Cleaned My Hands

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Cornell University Press, Richmond, California (lsupport@comcast.net).

JAMA. 2012;307(15):1591-1592. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.474

Several days ago, a friend, who is a medical educator in a residency program at a medical school, told me a tale. She was accompanying an intern as they trailed alongside an attending physician who was seeing patients in an outpatient clinic. The attending examined three patients in a row and did not clean his hands before or after examining any of them. One of those patients had MRSA.

Both my friend and the intern noted the problem. Neither said a word. My friend told me she was stunned that she did not intervene. Unlike the intern, who could be easily intimidated by the veteran physician's status, she had nothing to lose, she said, by reminding the physician of his Hippocratic oath. He had no power over her. Why, she wondered, had she not spoken up?

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