The professionalism of a handshake

During patient experience development training I am always discussing the etiquette of the handshake. When and most importantly how.

No-one wants a wet lettuce handshake and no-one wants a never-ending handshake.

During this aspect of training there are always team members that cringe; I can see the look on their faces – they do not want to shake hands with patients.

Clinicians usually do shake hands and are happy to as they know it is a professional thing to do, but nurses and front desk team members are never keen on shaking, for example, a new patient’s hand. The number one reason is germs.

At this point I will confirm that it is ok to sanitise your hands or wash them afterwards as I do understand their concerns regarding hand hygiene. When it comes to hand hygiene I have OCD myself and by sharing this with the team it really makes them think.

My OCD is like this:

The list does go on, yet as a team member I was more than happy to shake a patient’s hand as it was professional to do so and I worked in the high-end establishment therefore it was expected.

As the discussion continues the team often see that if they are happy to touch a trolley or shopping basket or dare I say it a petrol pump without thought of germs then they are certainly over-reacting to shaking the occasional patient’s hand!

The handshake is professional, it is needed in a five-star patient experience not just from the clinicians but from all of the team; it is important it happens and important that it is right.

Around 20 + years ago I remember a late night Channel 4 programme called Banzai. On this programme they featured ‘Mr Shake Hands Man’. I know some of you would not have watched such rubbish and others were too young to remember but here is a clip that was uploaded to Youtube in its infancy. Have fun watching and add ‘the handshake’ to the agenda of your next team meeting.


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