Medical scrubs are closely associated with the healthcare sector–doctors, nurses, laboratory and X-ray technicians, physical therapists.
Understandably, ever since the pandemic, it can be unsettling to stand next to a clinical staff who’s wearing this medical ensemble outside of the facility–whether in the grocery stores, in a coffee shop, on the streets, or in public transportations. This is the reason why most, if not all, hospitals have internal guidelines that prohibit their staff from wearing medical scrubs outside their premises.
This article will underline these guidelines and the reason why they must be followed:
The Need To Wear Medical Scrubs
About forty years ago, medical scrubs were first worn by medical staff working in the operating room. The term was coined because the clothing was only supposed to be worn in a scrubbed or sanitized environment, which, as you may have correctly guessed, refers to the operating room.
Since surgeries can take hours to finish, scrubs are meant to be comfortable to wear. The uniform as we know it now–a short-sleeved short paired with drawstring pants to easily wear or take off– was meant to protect both the patients and the wearer in the surgery room. There may be variations from the traditional scrubs, as seen on keswi.com, but the purposes remain.
Apart from protection, medical staff needs to wear scrubs for identification. Hospitals are one of the busiest places in the world. Nurses know that what sets them apart from others is the medical scrub that they’re wearing. These medical professionals need to interact heavily with patients and their families, which is why they need to be clearly recognized.
Apart from identification and protection, medical scrubs convey professionalism. People need to feel confident that their lives are in the hands of a skilled, trained, and, most of all, uniformed hospital staff.
Why You Shouldn’t Wear Scrubs Outside Of The Hospital
Hospitals worldwide have standing rules that prevent their staff from wearing medical suits outside of the hospital premises. In fact, medical professionals, besides possessing the skills suitable for the job, should be conscious enough in placing used scrubs on the washer and clean themselves after a medical activity. This is a fundamental step in preventing the spread of infection.
The United Kingdom’s National Health Service-run hospitals impose disciplinary measures to a staff who wears scrubs on the way to work and forget to peel them off before leaving from work. Here are reasons for such prohibitions:
- Scrubs Can Carry Disease-causing Microbes
When you’re working in the hospital setting, especially in the laboratories or wards, you’re highly exposed to organisms, airborne or otherwise, that can stick to your clothes. Once you or anyone touches the garment and rubs the eye, mouth, or any other orifice, microbes can enter the body, causing you or a colleague to get sick.
Apart from sticking to medical scrubs, these harmful organisms can also stick to any surface, such as your pens, notebooks, stethoscopes, and so on.
- Exposing Your Family To Harmful Microorganisms
Home laundry products can’t get rid of all microbes. On the contrary, hospitals and other related facilities have industrial-grade disinfectants and laundry products, as well as washing machines that can handle your contaminated medical scrubs better than your trusted disinfectants.
If you wear scrubs in public and on your way home, you may end up spreading the microbes once you place the infected clothes on the laundry.
- Scrubs May Harbor Antibiotic-resistant Bacteria
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are bacteria that are immune to some types of antibiotics, making it highly challenging to treat. Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) is quite common in medical facilities, and about 5% of the population in the US may be carriers. In mild cases, it can cause skin irritation and may progress to pneumonia, bloodstream infections, or death through sepsis.
Many pieces of research suggest that any item that touches the skin can be vectors for MRSA infection. Additionally, the said bacteria are also known to stick and survive for long periods on clothing, most notably medical scrubs. This makes healthcare professionals highly vulnerable to spreading and potentially getting infected with MRSA.
- Compromise Your Patients’ Health
Resist the urge to visit your favorite coffee place during a hospital duty break, if you don’t want to endanger your patient’s life. When working in the medical facility, you’ll often asked to take care of patients who are immuno-compromised, have injuries, or wounds. These persons are, therefore, highly vulnerable to infections.
Since perilous pathogens are everywhere, you can take them from the outside to your patients inside the hospital, possibly causing life-threatening complications.
- Raise False Expectations
As mentioned, medical scrubs are synonymous with healthcare workers. But it doesn’t take a medical degree to have the privilege to wear this uniform. These garments are ultra-comfortable and professional-looking, so who’s to blame if non-medical staff prefer to wear them? Besides, there are no rules that prevent non-healthcare professionals from wearing one.
However, when a medical emergency happens in your vicinity, you may be identified as hospital staff and asked to perform life-saving techniques. In this instance, you must refuse and explain that you’re not a trained lifesaver to prevent a serious situation from getting out of hand. However, doing so may negatively impact the medical community, especially those who don’t know the real story.
Considerations When Wearing Medical Scrubs
- Take off your medical scrubs after a medical activity, such as surgery, and before you head home from work.
- You may drop by an uncrowded place before reporting for work, but only in exceptional cases.
- Never wear scrubs in a public area and return for work without changing to a new set of scrubs.
These are the main reasons why it’s never a good idea to wear this medical uniform in public. As a healthcare professional, you’re expected to save and preserve lives. Acquiring the skills needed for the job isn’t enough. Practicing proper safety protocols can help prevent potentially fatal sicknesses from spreading and helps keep you, your patients, and the public protected.