In this world of evidence-based care, is there anything to be said for common sense? Last week a study was published in the American Journal of Infection Control that found that a fist bump transmitted fewer organisms than a handshake.
Really? We know that hands carry untold numbers of organisms. We know that skin-to-skin contact transmits organisms. We know that duration of contact plays a role in how many organisms are transmitted. Did we need a study to tell us that hand-to-hand contact with less surface area for a shorter duration of time would transmit fewer organisms?
With the attention being paid to this study, you might think it was a major discovery. Why? Because it’s fun to talk about fist bumps versus handshakes? (David Letterman seems to think so; he recently opened his monologue with a joke about the study results.) Because we kind of like the visual of everyone, from the staid to the cool, walking around giving fist bumps?
Or perhaps, on a serious note, because we’re still struggling unsuccessfully to get people to simply wash their hands and are ready to jump on anything that mitigates the risk of transmission when they don’t? (Adherence to hand hygiene guidelines among health care workers remains low. Read our March 2013 CE–Original Research feature, in which authors Kate Stenske KuKanich and colleagues describe their evaluation of a hand hygiene campaign in an outpatient oncology clinic and an outpatient gastrointestinal clinic.)
Here at AJN, we read study abstracts constantly, looking for new information relevant to nursing. We often come across studies like this: in local parlance, the ‘no-duh study.’ But really, it’s not a joke. There are limited resources for research—limited time, expertise, and money. Why are we spending these resources on questions that can be answered with common sense? True, common sense has been proven wrong in the past, and one era’s certainties may seem absurd to the next. But some questions, while not yet definitively answered through scientific inquiry, can be approached with enough confidence that health care might be better served if we directed our resources toward other, more complex questions that continue to plague us.
But hey, now we can all institute a fist-bump-only policy at our facilities, with the power of science behind us. And maybe, if we’re really lucky, every time someone pulls away from a handshake and makes a fist instead—it will remind them to wash their hands.