In a move to reduce health care associated infections, certain attire for health care professionals, including the traditional white coat, has come under scrutiny.
“White coats, neckties, and wrist watches can become contaminated and may potentially serve as vehicles to carry germs from one patient to another,” said Mark Rupp, M.D., chief of the division of infectious diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and one of the authors of recommendations issued by the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), one of the world’s top infection control organizations.
“However, it is unknown whether white coats and neck ties play any real role in transmission of infection. Until better data are available, hospitals and doctor’s offices should first concentrate on well-known ways to prevent transmission of infection – like hand hygiene, environmental cleaning, and careful attention to insertion and care of invasive devices like vascular catheters.”
The recommendations appear in the February online issue of the Journal of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. It includes a review of patient and health care professionals’ perceptions of the health professionals’ attire and transmission risk.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are 1.7 million hospital-acquired infections and 99,000 associated deaths in the U.S. each year.