Hospitals, urgent care and other healthcare facilities are aggressively managed to ensure a sterile environment. Patients with dangerous infectious diseases are quarantined, doctors and nurses vigorously scrub up between patients, and “clean rooms” are utilized to protect the spread of disease whenever possible. One element, though, has been overlooked for years – clothing.
Doctors, nurses, administrators and other facility employees generally wear scrubs at work. Scrubs can include shirts, pants, surgical gowns, caps and shoe coverings. Unfortunately, they can act as carriers of virulent pathogens to unsuspecting bystanders. While many manufacturers note that scrubs are antimicrobial, a review of dozens of studies simply does not support this claim.
While the original concern was cross-contamination at the medical facility, opponents of the clothing suggest that more and more medical professionals are wearing their scrubs outside the hospital. It is not uncommon to see a healthcare worker running errands – shopping, fueling up their vehicle, grabbing food on the way – while wearing scrubs. This individual could be on the way to work or on the way home. In any event, how can we guarantee that the scrubs are properly cleaned? Can a residential washer and dryer effectively remove dangerous pathogens from clothing?
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has turned our understanding of “normal” on its head. While it might be impossible for a medical professional to change outfits between seeing every patient on the schedule, it is certainly reasonable to suggest that scrubs should not be worn in public settings – in personal life. Spreading infection could be considered medical negligence and could endanger an entire community. With the studies being uncertain at best, our medical professionals should take extra care to protect themselves, their patients and those they casually come into contact with.