Physician Ponders Glove-Wearing and Losing Touch With Patients

Article

In an essay in the September/October 2010 issue of Annals of Family Medicine, Leif Hass, MD, of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, Calif. reflects on how his own drug-resistant staphylococcus infection affected his work in the hospital. Writing in "Losing Touch: Do Physicians Lose Connectedness with Patients When They Wear Exam Gloves? One Physician's Personal Reflection," Hass discusses how his subsequent decision to wear gloves during patient encounters created a barrier, not only to infection, but also between himself and his patients. He reflects on the value of touch as a communication tool in the doctor-patient relationship, especially as means of bridging large socioeconomic and cultural gaps. He concludes the implications of contact precautions must be considered as healthcare providers reflect on balancing patient-centered care with infection prevention and control.

Hass writes, "I understand objectively that I do not need to wear gloves with all my patients, but for a great number of patients, all clinicians must take considerable precautions to prevent the spread of infection. Guidelines support the use of alcohol-based foam products rather than gloves except when multidrug-resistant pathogens are confirmed, but given the increasing rates and virulence of these organisms, I am not convinced such measures will continue to be enough to protect our patients. I know, however, another important reason I now wear gloves is out of fear for my family and me. Yet I see touch as a communication tool. For me, touch is particularly important when trying to bridge large socioeconomic and cultural gaps. A hand on the shoulder or the knee or a thoughtful physical examination, I believe, can make a patient understand at a deep nonverbal level you are there for them. I work hard to demonstrate concern for my patients with tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language, yet I feel I am losing some connectedness without skin-to-skin contact."

Related Videos
Antimicrobial Resistance (Adobe Stock unknown)
Association for the Health Care Environment (Logo used with permission)
Ambassador Deborah Birx, , speaks with Infection Control Today about masks in schools and the newest variant.
CDC  (Adobe Stock, unknown)
Deborah Birx, MD
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  (Adobe Stock, unknown)
Related Content