I could tell I was being watched as I walked into the neonatal intensive care unit.
I took off my white coat, folded my stethoscope in a pocket, and hung the coat in a closet. In a nearby sink I washed my hands for a full minute, scrubbing between each finger before drying my hands.
I approached a high-tech isolette and leaned in to examine my patient, the pink baby within.
A voice stopped me: “Doctor!”
There were footsteps behind me. I pulled back and thought, what did I miss? I retraced each step. Coat. Stethoscope. Hands.
The desk clerk pointed a finger. “Your ring, doctor. You forgot to take off your wedding ring.”
She was right. I rolled my eyes, pocketed my ring, washed again, and went back to my little patient.
Small interactions like these make hospitals safer for children by reducing rates of hospital-acquired infections. Now a new article shows exactly how much safer.
Children are getting far fewer infections in American hospitals, according to a very large study released this week in the journal Pediatrics. From 2007 to 2012, using data collected in 173 U.S. hospitals and over five million days of hospitalization, investigators tracked rates of multiple hospital infections, including bloodstream infections among children with intravenous lines and pneumonias in children on mechanical ventilators. The results were impressive. They found that children developed bloodstream infections from intravenous lines less than a third as often as they did five years earlier, and in the same time period children on mechanical ventilators developed pneumonia less than half as often.