Click here for a link to a presentation by an architect about veterinary clinic design. This video clearly shows why people that are designing clinics need to be thinking about infection control (and that some are clearly not doing so). This person talks about the trend towards not placing sinks in exam rooms. This is news to me, and a major concern, because one of my major points when consulting on clinic design is making sure there are sinks in all exam and treatment areas. The farther you have to walk to find a sink, the less chance you’ll wash your hands and the greater chance you’ll contaminate things on the way to the sink.

One of this person’s arguments for not putting sinks in exam rooms is truly ludicrous. Basically, he says that pet owners are more and more in tune to hand hygiene, and if they see a sink and someone not use it, they get concerned that the vets hands are dirty. His reasoning is that not having a sink will prevent people from thinking about hand hygiene issues. For one thing, I think he’s underestimating the intelligence of pet owners – they don’t need to see a sink to think about hand hygiene. People are becoming much more aware of the need for healthcare providers to wash their hands, and this is filtering down to their perceptions of veterinarians as well. Instead of taking sinks out of exam rooms, if a vet is concerned their clients have a negative perception of their hand hygiene practices, there’s a simpler solution: actually practice good hand hygiene (and do so where owners can see it so they can be confident it’s being done!). The architect is correct that hand sanitizers are now more widely used, but he is incredibly wrong with his assumption that hand sanitizers replace hand washing. They don’t. Hand sanitizers are great but handwashing is still required in many situations.

Hopefully this architects assessment that sinks are disappearing is wrong. Vets and architects need to think about infection control when designing clinics. It’s easy to incorporate good infection control when building a clinic but very hard to retrofit a poorly designed clinic.