Wordless Wednesday: The Eight-Year-Old helps the University of Chicago get into the Guinness Book of World Records

A not-at-all-Wordless Wednesday post, because this one needs a bit of explanation. Last week, in an effort to keep patients safe and prevent infections, the University of Chicago hosted the #BigWashUCM — 24 hours in which the various wards and ICU units across its three hospitals strove to achieve perfect hand hygiene.

I know what you’re thinking…

How could they possibly know?

University of Chicago has placed sensors in each patient room that track when people enter and exit the rooms on the wards. Specially equipped hand sanitizer dispensers in and just outside the patient rooms and by the main doors to the unit count the number of hand hygiene events as they happen. The two numbers are sent over WiFi to a central hospital database, math happens, and voila! The hospital’s infection control and quality officers are equipped with handy little percentages that tell them exactly how well each floor and each unit are doing with their hand hygiene in real-time.


Throughout the day, a few hand hygiene champions strolled the halls, encouraging various units to step up their game.


Over the 24 hours in which the #BigWashUCM was held, the University of Chicago hospitals logged 96,898 hand hygiene events. That’s 193,796 clean hands in one day.


What does the safest day in healthcare ever have to do with The Eight-Year-Old?

Well, the University of Chicago decided that they didn’t just want to test their new electronic hand hygiene monitoring system, they wanted to set a new world record for the best rigorously validated hygiene rate ever. A Guinness Book of World Record, to be exact.


Turns out that one of the requirements for getting into the Guinness Book of World Records is to have community members monitor your record-setting activities and sign witness statements to verify that yes, this really did take place, and yes, you really did what you said you did.

Sign The Eight-Year-Old up!

The Eight-Year-Old took her responsibilities as a Guinness Book of World Records Witness extremely seriously. She was assigned four units in two different hospitals and she visited all of them.

I wish you could have seen her stalking nurses and doctors to make sure they washed their hands before going into the patient rooms, and cheering loudly for them each time they did.

The Eight-Year-Old can personally vouch for 23 of the 96,898 hand hygiene events. I know this, because she logged them all on her tally sheet. She would have logged more, but *someone* wouldn’t let her monitor the #BigWashUCM until after school was out and *then* insisted on leaving in time for dinner.


The Eight-Year-Old’s tally sheet. (Photo: Shala Howell)

Guinness, The Eight-Year-Old is awaiting your call.

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About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book, Did Dinosaurs Have Belly Buttons?, is currently planned for release in 2018. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, chatting about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.blog, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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