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Poetry and Medicine
March 7, 2012

Ode to Dry Hands

Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor. Poems may be submitted to jamapoems@jama-archives.org.

Author Affiliation: Medical Faculty Associates, George Washington University, Washington, DC (apossner@mfa.gwu.edu).

JAMA. 2012;307(9):888. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.152

It always happens in the winter
   with constant washing my hands splinter.
Even if I use gel and lotion
   skin becomes sandpaper in motion.
Fissures open, the knuckles turn red
   a few times my hands even have bled.
How it stings me—such irritation!
   The stigmata of sanitation!
Yet, I still say as the water pours
   “Let me clean my hands, then I’ll shake yours.”
It is a soapy cross that I bear
   an important way to show I care.
For as a doctor I know this much
   first do no harm starts with the first touch.

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