Yes, if you’re like me you see them everywhere — medical technicians, nurses, and doctors in scrubs or lab coats. Heck, you even see them at Whole Foods where medical professionals are shopping in them. What you don’t see on these garments is the living, thriving bacteria that could kill you.
Dirty scrubs spread bacteria to patients whether at the doctor’s office or the hospital, which provides access for these superbugs to reside in public places such as grocery stores, restaurants, and other public places. I bet the next time you see a medical professional in a public place in their medical scrubs you will think of this article. Sorry, but it’s true.
There’s an infection called Clostridium difficile (C. diff) which has gained increased attention the last several years. It sickens nearly 500,000 people a year in the United States. This infection becomes a problem when medical personnel wears the same unlaundered uniforms to work day after day. They may begin their shift already carrying germs such as C. diff, drug-resistant enterococcus or staphylococcus. The dirtiest? Doctors’ lab coats. At the University of Maryland, 65 percent of medical personnel confess they change their lab coat less than once a week, though they know it is contaminated. Fifteen percent admit they change it less than once a month. These “superbugs” such as staph can live on these polyester coats for up to 56 days.
So do dirty uniforms and linens endanger patients?
Studies confirm that the more bacteria found on surfaces often touched by doctors and nurses, the higher the risk that these bacteria will be carried to the patient and result in infection.
In a hospital, C. diff contaminates nearly every surface and is easily transferred from object to object.
Outside the hospital or doctor’s office, C. diff is also difficult to control. It isn’t killed by standard laundry detergents or most cleaners. Researchers found only scrubbing with bleach removed it. That’s not the kind of cleaning restaurants are prepared to do after serving hospital and medical workers.
Imagine visiting that salad bar or sliding into that restaurant booth after a nurse or medical technician has left the germ on the table or seat. Not a pleasant thought.
What should be done?
Hospitals, doctor’s offices, and day surgery facilities should daily provide workers with clean uniforms and prohibit employees and staff from wearing them in public or taking them home. They should employ the services of a professional linen service which provide the right equipment and handling from pickup to delivery and ensures clean uniforms and linens.