Patient Media

« Monday Morning Motivation | Main | Monday Morning Motivation »

Germs! Germs! Germs!

Patient education about germsAfter you’ve been in as many hotel rooms as I have, you pretty much know what to expect. Electronic card opens the door. Closet. Bathroom. Bed. Television. Chest of drawers. Worktable. Sitting chair. Lamp. There seems to be about 4-5 floor plan permutations, but that’s pretty much it. And how much you pay for the room in which you spend most of your time with your eyes closed doesn’t seem to change that.

So I was surprised, even amused, when I checked into my hotel room Friday night in Sioux Falls to conduct a special Debrief for The Conversation and found something that broke the pattern. Next to the telephone (both of them) was an alcohol prep pad. Something one might use to sterilize an area of the body prior to giving an injection.

Since I’m a student of people’s health beliefs and attitudes, I couldn’t help myself when checking out yesterday, asking the twenty-something front desk clerk to explain.

“Oh sure,” he acknowledged. “Our research shows that the telephone is the most used and germ-laden item in the room.”

Really? I instantly tried to recall how many times I’ve used the telephone in a hotel room and ascertained that it couldn’t have been more than a handful of times in this century, and only then to arrange a wake up call, or, on rare occasions to order room service. Yet, without prompting he continued.

Demonstrating by holding an imaginary handset to his ear he said, “When people cough or sneeze, they’re doing it right into the phone,” he said earnestly.

“Sure,” I deadpanned, “I can see how that could happen.”

I imagine from time to time that your work with patients will confront you with such a hair-brained notion of reality that you have to stop from laughing out loud, however, it’s rare for me. But this was one of those times. Since all I wanted was a copy of my bill and was on my way to the airport, I chose not to dig deeper about the beliefs that he and the hotel owner had about germs. But it got me thinking. Why the phone? Heck, if it’s all about germs, television remotes and toilet handles seem like far more serious candidates than the telephone!

If you take your obligation of chiropractic patient education even half seriously, seems to me that one of the topics you’d want to broach is our culture’s germaphobia. Not just the increasingly hot topic of immunization, but the growing number of Purell dispensers (“…kills 99.99% of the most common germs that may cause illness in as little as 15 seconds”), antibiotic soap and the new way of coughing and sneezing into one’s elbow.

I’m guessing that if you don’t broach the subject of germs and help patients realize that germs ONLY manifest in disease when circumstances are just right, you’ll have little hope of elevating vertebral subluxation as anything more than a luxurious pursuit for the idle rich.

With the connection between the immune system and the nervous system confirmed, you have a clearing to make your case that nervous system stress (subluxation) can be part of the germ/disease conversation. How? Here are some ideas. You be the judge as to when they are appropriate to share (not on the first visit!) lest you show up as deluded as the front desk hotel clerk, but at the opposite end of the spectrum:

The Germ Theory – After asking patients if they’ve ever heard of the “Germ Fact” or the “Germ Principle,” I’d ask them if they know when and who created our contemporary view of germs. Of course the answer is French scientist Louis Pasteur from whom we get the notion of destroying the value of cow’s milk by pasteurization Louis’s germ “theory” posited that germs were the cause of disease. That small, unseen microbes put man (and beast) at risk of disease. Ultimately, Pasteur saw the light, later recanting his germ theory by proclaiming that “the microbe is nothing, the terrain is everything.” In other words, it’s not the seed (germ) it’s the soil (body). Interestingly, Pasteur died about two weeks after D.D. Palmer delivered the first chiropractic adjustment in 1895.

Black Beans – When discussing the prevailing cultural fear of germs at seminars, I used to hold up a single black bean and observe with mock seriousness, “Scientists have done research on these little black beans and they’ve discovered that wherever you find black bean bushes, you’ll find the remnants of one of these little black beans in the soil. Thus they’ve reached the scientific conclusion that these cause black bean bushes!” Then I would pretend to sneeze, spewing the black beans in my hand at the audience. “Careful,” I would observe with feigned seriousness, “Those beans are going to germ-in-ate!” Highly unlikely, of course, in a hotel ballroom, which of course was the point.

New Lawn – “Have you ever tried to start a new lawn from scratch,” you ask. My experience has been that it’s a relatively difficult task to prep the soil, plant the seeds, water, weed and all the rest. Anyone who has tried it is well aware of the difficulties. Circumstances have to just right for seeds to sprout (germinate) and the lawn to manifest. Same with germs.

Your Mouth – Ask patients how many bacteria are residing in their mouth. If it’s been a couple of hours since they’ve brushed your teeth, it’s likely that they have more bacteria in your mouth than the number of people on planet earth. Turns out, scientists have identified more than 700 different species of microbes in our mouth. “So, how come you’re not sick right now?”

Helpful Bacteria – What many patients don’t know is that we are mostly germs. Germs help us digest our food and countless other tasks. Of the 156,000 categories of germs, only a couple of thousand of them are pathogenic. In fact, cardiovascular disease is a considerably greater threat to us than germs.

When You Die – I’m guessing that if you were to ask patients if they were familiar with John 11:39, only the most committed Bible scholar would know that it records Martha’s response to the command by Jesus to open the tomb of his dead friend Lazarus. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Yes, with the immune system hamstrung by the lack of nervous system control (death), it was known that something (germs) were finally free to have a party, producing the stench associated with death and decay.

I’m sure there are other access points. Regardless of how you do it, you might become more mindful that germs trump subluxations. In other words, if you have any hope of getting patients to value chiropractic care as a lifestyle adjunct, part of your patient education overture should be to neutralize the fears and phobias related to germs.

Comments (2)

It's true that unknowingly we touch many of such things which are full of germs and we dont even give them a thought.

Do you think the alcohol swab was to clean the skin prior to an injection of antibiotics? A person can never be too safe:) Great post! Getting people to stop and think by asking great questions is so powerful! Thanks for the info!

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

From May 7, 2012 8:50 AM

This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 7, 2012 8:50 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Monday Morning Motivation.

The next post in this blog is Monday Morning Motivation.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.