Germs, Bacteria and Handwashing

Hello everyone, as promised here is some information and resources that will help you with next weeks topic task on Florence Nightingale and handwashing.

Task. Imagine you are Florence and you are wriitng a set of instructions to your nurses on how they should wash their hands properly. Remember your results and conclusions from your scientific hand washing investigation and our work on instructions in English.

Watch the NHS (National Health Service) video carefully, how should you wash your hands?

Why wash your hands?

Keeping hands clean through improved hand hygiene is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water.

Did you know?

There can be up to 5000 germs on your hands?

Why would Florence Nightingale want her nurses to wash their hands?

STEM- Medical Innovators          Ignaz Semmelweis & Florence Nightingale

Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian doctor working in Vienna General Hospital, is known as the father of hand hygiene. In 1846, he observed that the women giving birth in the medical student/doctor-run maternity ward in his hospital were much more likely to develop a fever and die compared to the women giving birth in the adjacent midwife-run maternity ward. He decided to investigate, seeking differences between the two wards. He noticed that doctors and medical students often visited the maternity ward directly after performing an autopsy. Based on this observation, he hypothesised that those performing autopsies got ‘cadaverous particles’ on their hands, which they then carried from the autopsy room into the maternity ward. Midwives did not conduct surgery or autopsies, so they were not exposed to these particles.
As a result, Semmelweis imposed a new rule mandating handwashing with chlorine for doctors. The rates of death in his maternity ward fell dramatically. This was the first proof that cleansing hands could prevent infection. However, the innovation was not popular with everyone: some doctors were disgruntled that Semmelweis was implying that they were to blame for the deaths and they stopped washing their hands, arguing in support of the prevailing notion at that time that water was the potential cause of disease. Semmelweis tried to persuade other doctors in European hospitals of the benefits of handwashing, but to no avail.

A few years later in Scutari, Italy, the Crimean War brought about a new handwashing champion, Florence Nightingale. At a time when most people believed that infections were caused by foul odors called miasmas, Florence Nightingale implemented handwashing and other hygiene practices in the war hospital in which she worked. While the target of these practices was to fight the miasmas, Nightingale’s handwashing practices achieved a reduction in infections.

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