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New guidelines address dress-related hygiene for physicians

Popular culture insists that the clothes healthcare providers wear is always clean. On television and in the movies, scrubs are always freshly laundered, white coats are always pressed and nursing uniforms are always cozy and inviting. In truth, the clothes that healthcare providers wear come into contact with unclean and potentially dangerous substances simply by being worn during the course of an average day.

Recently released guidance on this issue crafted by the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America has been published in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. This guidance essentially suggests that if facilities wish to prevent infection-related hospital errors that their approach to healthcare provider uniforms needs to follow a specific course.

In addition to properly laundering scrubs, coats and other uniform pieces, the new guidance suggests that providers refrain from wearing watches, rings and ties that are not tucked in. Germs can transfer from the surfaces that these objects touch to patients and equipment. In addition, the guidelines suggest that providers wear short sleeves, both for this reason and so that providers may more thoroughly wash their hands and forearms when appropriate.

Until facilities embrace these guidelines, it is not out of order for any concerned patients and loved ones to request that nurses and physicians remove their watches and rings and wash their hands before touching anyone who may be affected by a potential transfer of germs. Hospital-acquired infections are a serious problem in the U.S. Hopefully these guidelines will help to mitigate that particular trend.

Source: USA Today, “Germy lab coats and ties prompt dress code for doctors,” Kim Painter, Jan. 21, 2014

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