Hospital scrubs: “Fashionable” but a suspected source of infection

You see them walking around hospitals, and sometimes even on the street: health care workers wearing surgical “scrubs.” It’s something of a fashion statement, but also a potential carrier of infections, yet no one has really carefully studied the problem to know for sure.

The old adage among patient safety advocates that “you can’t improve what you don’t measure” describes what we know about infection rates in hospitals. As long as little or no data on infection rates are collected, the problem tends to be sidelined.

There is no data about a possible link between hospital scrubs worn outside the operating room and infection rates. Scrubs can carry harmful pathogens, and because the transmission modes of drug-resistant pathogens are more prevalent than previously thought and are no longer confined to hospitals, some patient safety advocates say it’s time hospitals addressed the issue.

One such group, the Empowered Patient Coalition, which works on patient education and empowerment issues, wants hospitals and other health care organizations to start by gathering data on scrubs in their facilities and by looking at the data about the types of pathogens that are found, and then developing policies to keep both their workers and the public safe.

But, the group says, for such a policy to be effective, a hospital would have to:

1-Promote a culture where the policy is the norm, not an additional burden.

2-Communicate the policy efficiently to staff using supervisors who believe in the action.

3-Ensure that ignoring the policy will have consequences and would be considered an employment standards issue.

Source: University of Southern California Reporting on Health

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