Scrubs worn outside hospitals eyed for ick factor
- As hospital employees venture out in their scrubs to coffee shops, restaurants, subways, and more, some experts are concerned that they pose a health risk given that germs can potentially travel in and out of hospitals on these uniforms.
- When biologist Jonathan Eisen of UC Davis sees healthcare workers out in scrubs, all he can think of is traveling germs. He says the biggest concern with scrubs outside of the hospital is not so much bringing germs in, but carrying them out.
- While research has shown that scrubs do get contaminated quickly and can collect bacteria, researchers aren't clear whether or what risks this actually poses.
Because there is so little data on the subject, hospital attire and the risk of germ transmission has flown largely under the radar. The American Hospital Association provides no guidance on the topic, and it's common for hospitals to apply scrub rules only to the OR and other specific areas.
However, as Eisen suggests, this topic may warrant attention now, given the risks posed by the spread of antibiotic resistant organisms.
"...It just seems as a precautionary principle, hospital and medical workers should try to do the simple things that could limit the possibilities of spreading organisms that you don't want," he says. "It just doesn't seem that bringing scrubs outside of the hospital makes sense as common practice."
In the absence of data or guidance, hospital workers should try to use common sense about any potential risks posed by their scrubs and other clothing or belongings.