Most of us multitask our way around town, constantly checking our to-do lists and cramming as much as we can into small windows of time.
Healthcare professionals, the ones who work in hospitals and wear the nifty lab coats and scrubs, are no different. They hurry out during lunch break to run errands, hurry to catch the bus to go home, and hurry to pick up their kids from soccer practice – they multitask.
But, if they don’t change their clothes and shoes before leaving the hospital, they can easily spread Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) and other germs around and make lots of people sick. One hospital survey said that almost 500,000 people a year in the U.S. are getting sick just from C. difficile infections, which can cause diarrhea and inflammation of the colon.
In a January 2009 Wall Street Journal piece, author BetsyMcCaughey noted that:
At the University of Maryland, 65% of medical personnel confess they change their lab coat less than once a week, though they know it’s contaminated. Fifteen percent admit they change it less than once a month. Superbugs such as staph can live on these polyester coats for up to 56 days.
These multitasking, scrub and lab coat wearing healthcare professionals are spreading germs they pick up in the hospitals to their homes, to bus and subway seats, to restaurant chairs and tables and elsewhere.
Concern isn’t being aimed squarely at scrubs or lab coats: any type of unnecessary clothing is being criticized for carrying germs as workers move from patient to patient, person to person.
Loose clothing and long-sleeved shirts are culprits, as are neckties. In a 2004 New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens study, a test of 40 medical employees and 10 security guards found that half of the employees’ ties were a significant source of germs compared to only one in ten of the guards.
Hospitals are supposed to enforce rules about wearing scrubs or lab coats outside of the office, but sometimes these rules aren’t enforced. Budget concerns may prevent hospitals from improving their laundry habits or purchasing additional clothing for employees.
Using more care to clean hands, sterilize equipment, and wear clean scrubs without below-the-elbow items like long-sleeve shirts or neckties can lower hospital-related infection rates. It’s worked in Denmark and other countries that have pushed for stricter regulations regarding hospital apparel.
Why not give it a try here?