Healthcare Clothing May Contain Pathogens and Germs
Even things like furniture, equipment, and almost any other surface in a hospital, clinic, or doctor’s office can be harboring germs that are easily transferred from clinician to patient. A lot of attention is paid to sterilizing equipment and rooms, including surfaces, but what about the clothing that is worn by nurses and other healthcare professionals? In February 2014, a study published suggested that contamination from clothing (including white doctor’s coats), jewelry (like wristwatches), and even neckties could serve as a potentially hazardous transmission vehicle from one patient to another.
While this is a concerning development, experts are quick to point out that the exact role of medical apparel in disease transmission is unknown. While the role of clothing in transmission of infection is unknown, medical professionals should follow best practices to avoid transmission including washing hands, environmental and sterile cleaning, as well as careful attention to a theory known as Bare Below the Elbows (BBE). BBE is a suggestion that clinicians should wear short sleeves, no jewelry (including watches), and no neckties.
White doctor’s coats are a strong symbol of the medical profession and should be laundered at least once per week; doctors should also have at least two in their possession. If the white coat is visibly soiled, it should be laundered more frequently. Additionally, white coats should be taken off prior to patient contact but avoid contact with surfaces, so it would be best to hang them on a wall hook. Again, while there’s no reason to suspect that clothing will transmit infection or germs, it’s always a good idea for medical professionals and doctors to use best practices when it comes to their medical apparel.
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