are doctors and nurses harboring pathogens on their uniforms

When Pittsburgh-area patients seek medical help at a hospital, they are likely dealing with a serious injury or illness. They rightly expect to receive competent medical treatment and to become healthier during their stay.

Unfortunately, many hospital patients get more than they bargained for. Too often, patients acquire new infections or diseases while in the hospital. These hospital-acquired infections put many patients in unnecessary danger. Now, a new study has revealed that these infections may be partly caused by bacteria and pathogens that linger on hospital staff uniforms.

According to a new study in the American Journal of Infection Control, 50 percent of the doctors and nurses tested carried pathogens on their uniforms. The pockets, sleeves and waists of the medical professional’s scrubs and lab coats revealed germs that have been known to cause pneumonia and other infections.

The study’s author pointed out that hospital uniforms “may be one route by which pathogenic bacteria are transmitted to patients.” However, they also point out that the study itself did not identify a firm link between germs on the uniforms and patients who contracted hospital-acquired infections.

Although infected scrubs and lab coats have not been shown to directly make patients sick, hospital staff should still be aware of the potential danger. In order to reduce the risk of transmitting potentially deadly diseases to patients, nurses and doctors should be encouraged to:

  • Wear clean uniforms every day
  • Wash their hands and arms more carefully
  • Don plastic aprons when their job could involve being splashed with body fluids

These steps can help prevent pathogens and germs from hitching a ride on hospital staff clothing. Although some hospitals already have policies in place to require these steps, many Pittsburgh hospital patients would be made safer if all hospitals adopted such practices.

Source: MSNBC, “Hospital garb harbors nasty bacteria, new study says,” JoNel Aleccia, Aug. 31, 2011

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