Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Scrub Suits in Public: Yes or No?

Medical personnel shouldn’t wear scrub suits in public because of the risk of spreading infection. That is the opinion of a retired anesthesiologist named David A. Martin, whose comments were featured in a recent post by William Heisel, a noted health care reporter.

Dr. Martin was particularly concerned about scrub-clad staff patronizing restaurants. He backed up his feelings by asking two such individuals to leave a restaurant, which, surprisingly, they did. His actions were based on the theory that scrub suits are contaminated with hospital-acquired bacteria which could be transmitted to the general public.

While there are numerous reports that scrubs and lab coats worn by medical staff are in fact colonized by pathogens, there are no published papers linking bacteria on scrub suits, lab coats, neckties or cell phones to documented transmission of disease. [See bibliography below.]

So how should we medical people react to Dr. Martin’s position?

In an era where nearly every day a new report emerges that medical errors are killing more patients than the bubonic plague, we need to be aware of our highly visible profile. In the words of the noted philosopher, Andre Agassi, “Image is everything.” Although I doubt very much that anyone is harmed by a nurse or doctor wearing a scrub suit in a restaurant, it just does not look good. Scrubs should also not be worn on a bus or on a trip to the mall.

I would hope that the guys who work in sewage treatment feel the same way about their attire.

Scrub suits & lab coats
Scrub suits & lab coats
Scrub suits & lab coats
Scrub suits & lab coats
Scrub suits & lab coats
Cell phones


XOXO Dr. Kay Elizabeth said...

I would have to agree. I was just talking to a friend of mine's about people who wear their work uniforms on their commute to work via trains, buses, etc and they're employed at restaurants. I think it's just plain gross, nasty, and you're contaminating people's food with your outside germs. I also think the same is true when working in a hospital. There are so many things that can get on a lab coat or scrubs, especially if an individual is working in the emergency medicine department. I remember doing my clinical last year and someone brush up against me and I had blood on my uniform, I mean you just never know. Or someone could cough in their hands touch you, etc. I mean just think of the communicable diseases.

Anonymous said...

Agree. Hospital attire belongs in the hospital. Period. Yes, image is everything.

ffolliet said...

Please stop? However dirty scrubs are, the dirtiest thing in the restaurant is the people themselves. Most serious bugs are actually pretty fragile and short of other patrons sucking the scrubs, the bugs cannot and do not leap like salmon from scrubs to other potential hosts. Furthermore, gross as it may sound, should some bug develop athletic tendencies and end up on your food (eeeeew) your gastric acid and gut lymph nodded would sort them out.

So, scrubs are a bit shabby but unless you encourage everyone to shower, we are really missing the point somewhat.

Anonymous said...

You OR and LD guys are used to having hospital scrubs to change into upon arrival and leave behind each day. I'd like that too. Remember when you are rounding in your nice shirt and tie, etc. and that lab coat that can walk on it's own (you know you guys NEVER ever have washed it -- no I be not even once). When you sit in MY chair and use MY computer I cringe just a little.

I wonder what then to do about the entire staff eating in the cafe?


ablestmage said...

I think it's rather silly to automatically assume that people in scrubs have been exposed to contaminating substances. There are too many perfectly plausible reasons to be wearing scrubs to a public place like a restaurant. All of those other explanations are immediately bypassed or discarded in favor of the most drastic possible explanation.

Off the top of my head, I might suspect perhaps that, as a medical professional in scrubs in a public venue that (a) the fact that cross-contamination has been drilled into your mind from years of training and you already know better and could even perhaps lecture other people on contamination better than some random Joe or Jane who looks at you and immediately assumes dastardly consequences, (b) you might be on your way TO work and stopped by for a bite before your 12-hour shift begins, rather than being on a break or had just been relieved and stopped off to spread illness everywhere, or (c) you could work in an office where even in daily routine, contamination of anything even intra-office is as unlikely as any non-medical office because of the nature of the business. On the lattermost, I've been to a few offices that strictly perform MRI scans and nothing else, and everyone there was in scrubs. They didn't take any fluids in the process, there was no excretion sampling, no surgical techniques employed, just doing MRIs and every person in the office was wearing scrubs, even the front desk ladies and presumably the accountants. There was one single gal who gave me an IV, but all of the contaminating possibilities were presumably limited to that single room and might never escape.

To automatically leap past a slough of perfectly legitimate reasons to be wearing scrubs in a public place, to sprint directly to scrubs=germs seems to indicate a severe lack of imagination n the accuser's behalf.

Anonymous said...

cliff, i agree to it. uniform is a uniform that simply means you shouldn't use it in any activities other than that. i have read a blog by this scrubs uniform sellers that says that "why not try wearing scrubs as an apron during cooking". Uniform reflects you and all of it matters.

Nurse and Hospital Stories said...

"While there are numerous reports that scrubs and lab coats worn by medical staff are in fact colonized by pathogens, there are no published papers linking bacteria on scrub suits, lab coats, neckties or cell phones to documented transmission of disease."

Well said. And in fact, it is hard to make a study out of this scrub contamination issue, since germs thrive everywhere not just on hospitals. And speaking of those guys working on a sewage treatment, I guess, if bacteria and pathogens could be numbered, we could see more on their clothes than on nurses' and physicians' scrubs and lab coats.

Anyway, thanks for sharing,
Peny@medical products

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