One ‘Sick’ Uniform

 

How clean is your uniform?

Isn’t it amazing how our uniform defines our profession? I guess you could say all of health care to some degree. We as nurses love to wear our scrubs. We love to be able to say we wear our ‘pajamas’ to work every day (OK, maybe I’m the only one that says that). But what if the uniform we are wearing is causing harm? Or could potentially cause harm in the form of infection?

It’s not a new concept, but I recently read an article (Dangerous Bacteria Hide Out in Nurses’, Doctors’ Uniforms) on how our scrubs and our lab coats (all types of care providers) can and do harbor harmful bacteria. When I saw the title of this article it immediately brought back memories of the cleanliness of physician’s ties (How Clean Is Your Doctor’s Tie?).

It is no secret that we deal with a boat load of serious disease-causing germs on a daily basis while on the job. It doesn’t matter where we work, it’s what I would call assumed risk for us. This is health care, and we are caring for the unwell.

I guess I’m wondering how often we think about the ‘sterility’ of our uniforms (all of them). I mean, I don’t think I’m alone when I say I wear my scrubs from my home, to work, at work, and then back home. In fact I’m pretty sure we have all run errands before and after work while still wearing our scrubs. What’s that say about our cleanliness? Or our infection prevention? We ALL know how easy bacterial transmission can be (those darn vectors!).

When I worked in the PACU, we had to wear OR scrubs. We could not wear scrubs from outside the hospital. We had to change into our uniform that was provided for us by the hospital. And then at the end of the day we changed and tossed the dirty uniform in the dirty linens to be washed by the hospital cleaning service.

I used to think that was such a pain.

Then I remembered my pediatric rotation in nursing school. All the germs we encountered there. I specifically remember MANY of my classmates getting the sniffles, head colds and full-blown flu during that time frame. We were told to rigorously clean our equipment (pens, markers, clipboards, BP cuffs, stethoscopes, etc.) to make sure we didn’t transport any of the ‘germs’ home. RSV was not our friend. I remember wiping down my shoes with Clorox wipes after each clinical day!!!

I’m still pretty ‘Type-A’ about most of the aforementioned, but somehow I’ve gotten away from including my uniform.

Maybe I’m being too ‘Type-A’, but I wonder how many times we nurses have gotten sick, or we have passed on the ‘germs’ to someone else who eventually became sick, simply by the uniform we were wearing. (See this article about germs on your scrubs, as well).

Things that make you go hmm…

How ‘sick’ are the scrubs you are wearing? Another post from over at Scrubs.

How clean is your uniform? | Scrubs – The Leading Lifestyle Nursing Magazine Featuring Inspirational and Informational Nursing Articles

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5 thoughts on “One ‘Sick’ Uniform

  1. It’s terrible that hospitals can get people sick due to the lack of cleanliness. Something else to add to the germ-carrying fabric list is hospital curtains. Hospitals should be sure to use anti-bacterial curtains and wash them regularly.

  2. Hey Sean,

    Your post triggered a memory from my days in nursing school. One of the teachers told us that after her day in the ER, she would go home in the scrubs worn all day at work, and never walk into her home in them. She had a laundry basket / area specifically for her work attire, which was taken off in her garage, then she entered her home and went straight into the shower.

    Sounds easier than it is, as we all may not have that private garage to disrobe in, or a washer/dryer in our places, but it is a great idea-bacteria wise. Just think of all those germs on our car interiors!! It would be so interesting to have a team of experts do a bacteria sweep on us nurses after we leave the hospital/clinic. What ever would they find??? And where would all these germs be hiding??

    I always was bothered that BP cuffs were put on one patient, then the next, with no cleaning of any kind in between. To this day, I still believe that those cuffs are serious vectors for bacterial growth, another thing that would be interesting to test.

    Maybe Dexter’s available to help us out?? (I am taking for grated that you watch Dexter….) 😉

    Gentle Hugs——<3

    1. Hah! No, I don’t watch Dexter – but I know enough from around the internet. Thanks for leaving a comment!

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