why some experts are saying scrubs need to stay in the hospital

The next time you go to the local grocery store to pick up a few items for dinner, ride the bus home from work or stop to fill up your gas tank, take a careful look around you. Chances are very good that you’ll see someone clad in the unmistakable garb of health care workers everywhere: scrubs.

Indeed, if you were to stand outside any hospital here in the Pittsburgh area, you’d likely see scores of doctors, nurses, medical assistants and other hospital employees file in and out of the building wearing a veritable rainbow of scrub colors.

While scrubs are the preferred uniform of choice for so many health care workers due to their comfort and simplicity, some experts are now wondering if it’s safe for them to be worn outside of medical facilities.

Specifically, biologists are concerned that scrubs could act as a very effective vector for transmitting germs in hospital settings, including antibiotic resistant bacteria, which can spread rapidly and potentially decimate an otherwise vulnerable patient population.

Similarly, they are concerned that scrubs worn by hospital workers could serve to introduce potentially dangerous pathogens from inside hospitals outside to the unsuspecting public who stand in the same lines, ride the same subways and share the same restrooms.

As feasible — and frightening — as all this may sound, these experts also concede that there is still little evidence to back up their concerns and no guidance from the American Hospital Association on this issue.

Indeed, while some hospitals ask workers not to wear scrubs outside the facilities, the overwhelming majority have no policy in place whatsoever. Instead, many hospital administrators indicate that resources are directed toward more proven sanitation practices such as hand washing, disinfecting practices and isolation of contagious patients.

It should be noted that the vast majority of hospitals do have a policy mandating that scrubs used in the operating room and in areas where surgical instruments are sterilized must stay put.

All this is not to say that these concerns about scrubs carrying germs should be discarded. Consider that hospital administrators throughout Pennsylvania recently banned health care workers from wearing fleece garments due to their propensity to shed and their fuzzy surfaces making them more likely to carry germs.

What are your thoughts on this issue?

Source: WHYY, “Should scrubs be worn only inside hospitals to limit the spread of germs?” Maiken Scott, Jan. 15, 2015

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