Wednesday, September 24, 2008


An interesting article in the New York Times sent to me by my mother-in-law:

In case it won't let you read it, here it is:

Should hospital scrubs be worn in public places?

That’s one of the questions asked by my Well column this week, which looks at the role clothing may play in the spread of germs by health workers. The issue of scrubs on the subway and other public places has been raised often by readers of the Well blog.

“I cringe every time I see a medical professional on the subway in their scrubs, which is a regular occurrence,” writes reader A.K.

“What drives me crazy is the sight of someone wearing scrubs while shopping for groceries, going to the post office, picking up their kids from day care, and so on,” writes Jenny, a nurse. “Someone wearing scrubs has been around germs all day. That person is too lazy to keep their patients’ problems away from you, and now they’re handling the apples and cereal boxes that you or someone you love may handle next.”

As my story explains, there’s no evidence that wearing soiled scrubs out of the hospital poses a threat to the public, but part of the problem is that the issue of physician attire and germs hasn’t been well studied. To read more, read the full Well column here, and then post your comments below.

I think the best part of the article are the comments below it from readers - not surprisingly, I agree and sympathize with the doctors. If you work in an operating room, or somewhere that requires clean clothes for the patients' sake (for example if they are all immunocompromised), even if you wear scrubs to work, you have to change into new clean scrubs at the hospital, which you take off before you leave. Otherwise, scrubs are no different from other clothes (for example a suit) that you wear to the hospital. It's really just a public perception that they are dirty - people wearing nice clothes touch the same patients, do the same procedures, go into the same areas of the hospital as people wearing scrubs. From my own perspective, if something happens to a patient and we have to do something emergent, or there's some blood spilled during a procedure, it is easier to clean scrubs than it is to clean a suit or a nice blouse, not to mention that scrubs are often much more comfortable and allow me to do procedures without restriction or care about my clothes. Although not relevant to the safety issue, I also agree with some of the other comments saying that many non-medical personnel wear scrubs too just because it's convenient, and these people often include janitors, technicians, medical students, researchers, etc. In the end, I guess what would be needed to settle this point is a study looking at people wearing scrubs in the public compared to other medical and non-medical people wearing regular clothes and seeing if there are any differences in "germs", and moreover, even if there were differences in amounts or types of germs, if this actually made any difference in terms of infection rates of people they came into contact with. I doubt anyone is willing to spend thousands of dollars to find something like this out.

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