Four-Year-Olds Get It…So Why Is It So Hard To Do?

By Stacy Sutton

Recently, I was working remotely from a coffee shop. I had my work laptop, notepad and hot beverage at hand and was cranking away. Then I noticed a young family sitting nearby. I couldn’t help but notice, because their four-year-old daughter was chatting up everyone within earshot.

Sure enough, the girl came over to me and we discussed whether her apple cider was better than my hot chocolate or not, and we traded some silly jokes. Then she noticed the sticker on my laptop cover – it’s the image in our logo and it looks like this:

The little girl asked, “Why do you have a handwashing sticker on your computer?”

I was excited that a four-year-old was able to immediately identify what this symbol meant. I explained that it was related to my work – that we help doctors and nurses wash their hands in order to keep their hospital patients safe. She nodded solemnly and said that was good.

Four-year-olds get it. We all get it, really. So why is it so hard for all of us to consistently clean our hands when we’re supposed to? It isn’t that we don’t care, but changing behavior is complex. It’s typically that we’re moving fast, trying to get a lot done, and we’re distracted.

Many smart people, hospitals and companies have tried to solve this problem and increase hand hygiene. After many years of research as well as a lot clinician-driven innovation, we’ve cracked this nut. First, it takes effective technology that not only monitors individual and group performance, but that also gently reminds clinicians to sanitize in the moment. Second, it takes a systematic process that includes education, gamification and rewards to positively change culture.

It can be done. We do it every day. And children and adults alike benefit.

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