Last year a simple fist bump by President Obama got politicized. But this year it has come back with a new purpose. With the swine flu pandemic threatening to get worse with students returning to school and college and the seasonal influenza season just a few weeks away, hand washing has become the mantra for flu prevention.
But what if you don't have your hand sanitizer ready. Every time you shake hands you worry about contributing to the spread of the virus. For physicians it is a specially relevant issue. You walk into an exam room and shake hands with your patient. Everything you touch thereafter has a chance to get contaminated - the keyboard, the mouse, the table surface, the stethoscope etc. Even though you sanitize your hands religiously between patients, you probably don't sanitize them right after each handshake.
Enter the fist bump. Walk into the exam room and do a fist bump with the patient. Not only does it prevent your palms from getting contaminated but it gives you a great opportunity to start talking about the flu. We know that patients put a high value on their physician's opinion. A fist bump to start the office visit will give you a great chance to mention the importance of hand washing and educate the patients about how to prevent the spread of the virus.
I tried this today with all my patients and it worked!