60% hospital uniforms filled with dangerous bacteria

Gross but true: Up to 60 percent of uniforms worn by the medical and nursing staff tested positive for having potentially pathogenic bacteria, including drug-resistant organisms, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Infection Control.

Researchers tested the abdominal, sleeve, and pocket areas of physicians' and nurses' uniforms at an university-affiliated hospital. More than half (58 percent) of the medical and nursing staff said they changed their uniform every day and about three-quarters (77 percent) rated their hygiene as excellent. However, 65 percent of nurses' uniforms had pathogens, including 21 drug-resistant pathogens. Similarly, 60 percent of doctors' uniforms had pathogens, including six drug-resistant ones.

"It is important to put these study results into perspective," said APIC 2011 President Russell Olmsted in a press release today. "Any clothing that is worn by humans will become contaminated with microorganisms. The cornerstone of infection prevention remains the use of hand hygiene to prevent the movement of microbes from these surfaces to patients."

Although the accrediting bodies offer guidance on hygiene and patient risk, many institutions decide for themselves how to carry out individual policies. For example, some institutions ban wearing ties and watches for patient safety. Although some institutions require that physicians limit wearing the traditional white coat, physicians tend to gravitate to wearing them, especially as evidence shows long versus short sleeves make no difference in bacteria growth.

For more information:
- read the press release
- check out the study abstract

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