Handwashing is acknowledged as a critical factor in the prevention of nosocomial infection. Nonetheless, health care personnel often wash their hands inadequately. The purpose of this study was to examine the flora of hands and the frequency of handwashing of physicians working in primary care pediatric community clinics. The fingers of the dominant hand of 55 physicians working in 12 clinics were sampled for bacterial cultures. Only 354/720 (49%) of the expected handwashings by 17 board-certified pediatricians were recorded as having been performed. None of them washed their hands after each contact with an examined child. All physicians' hands were found to be contaminated with microorganisms. Staphylococcus species were isolated from 47 (85.4%) of the physicians' hands. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus was found on the hands of 9.1% of the physicians. Such contaminated hands may serve as a potential vector of community-acquired infection with highly resistant organisms. Compliance with handwashing recommendations among these physicians was low. An active educational infection control program must be introduced in ambulatory pediatric community clinics.