Nosocomial or iatrogenic infections

Issue: BCMJ, Vol. 52, No. 8, October 2010, page(s) 386 Letters
Jim Battershill, MD

One hears frequently through the press about nosocomial (hospital) or iatrogenic (doctor-induced) diseases these days. I find this frustrating because when I entered medicine in 1946 the antibiotic era was just beginning and we were still indoctrinated in the older measures for disease control. One wonders if some may have been abandoned too quickly.

For example, we all had a small booklet called The Control of Commun­icable Disease, which listed measures for the practitioner such as im­munization, placarding, or isolation. Surgical infection (it used to be called “surgical scarlet fever”) was a cause for horror and embarrassment by all the staff of the hospital.

One of my fondest memories is of practical advice such as “the first thing the patient does when he/she enters the office is to look to your hands” and “wash your hands in front of each patient before examining them.” Also “get offices on the main floor so older patients are considered.” Many of our teachers had seen the 1918 influenza epidemic and were still scared stiff of it. 

I fully realize that the world moves on, but perhaps we should look back once in a while at what we are leaving behind.
—Jim Battershill, MD, FRCPC
North Vancouver