Though the stark white of hospital coats worn by doctors might give off the impression of clean sterility, a study released last year by the American Journal of Infection Control contends that uniforms worn by medical workers in hospitals may be as infected as the some of the patients that they treat.
The data collected found that over 60% of health workers’ uniforms tested were playing host to pathogens, including the bacteria and viruses that are known to cause pneumonia, bloodstream infections, and drug-resistant infections like MRSA. Using samples from the sleeves, waists, and pockets of 75 RNs and 60 doctors at a high-traffic hospital, Israeli researchers conducted and analyzed the results of this investigation.
Other data about hospital uniform germs gleaned from the study include the following:
- Half of the samples tested came back with positive results for one of more pathogens
- Potentially hazardous bacteria could be isolated in at least one spot on 63% of uniforms
- Of the 63% containing dangerous germs, 11% included bugs that were resistant to front-line antibiotics
Though the study doesn’t make a definitive link between germ-infested scrubs and uniforms transferring patient infections from person to person, it brings to up the issue of how to handle the cleaning of these garments, and whether or not they should be worn in the public realm, outside of the workplace.
Ramona Conner, a registered nurse and manager of standards and recommended practices for the Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses (AORN), nevertheless finds the study insights troubling: “I do cringe,” she says. “We do know that antibiotic-resistant organisms have been found to survive for extended lengths of time on hospital materials including clothing and linens” (Source).
Along with several other organizations, the AORN provides detailed insights in helping to prevent the spread of infection with specifications about the handling of hospital worker uniforms. AORN guidelines suggest that hospitals recruit laundry services for doctors and nurses to guarantee correct cleaning, and are firm about the fact that health workers should not wear their scrubs outside of the hospital.
Though hospitals need to take precautions in sterilizing not just uniforms, but surfaces and equipment in their buildings as well, while enforcing proper hygiene practices amongst workers, the problem of germ-infested uniforms is nonetheless one that should not be overlooked or ignored.
Lord Baltimore Uniform, a full-service uniform rental company located in Baltimore, Maryland, is available to help address the issue of contaminated hospital worker uniforms with our uniform rental service, which includes the transport and cleaning of clothing in our green laundering facilities. Eliminate the spread of diseases and germs both in and outside of the hospital, in public and in private homes, by letting us provide and launder lab coats, scrubs, and other health care worker uniforms. We’re here to keep you healthy!