It seems today that everywhere we go; whether it is the grocery store, movie theatre, restaurant, doctor’s office or the mall, we are seeing sterile cleanser dispensers. Fighting the spread of germs is on everyone’s mind these days and doing whatever we can to combat this battle is the main game plan. In fact, I am willing to bet that many of us carry a travel-sized sterile cleanser in our briefcase, purse or car. Bottom line - we are geared for battle and willing to take whatever steps needed to stop the spread of germs. If this is the case, why do some healthcare professionals not think the same way when it comes to traveling outside of the work environment in their uniforms, whether it is scrubs or lab coats?
Being in sales, I visit multiple laundries and healthcare facilities on a weekly basis. Although many healthcare facilities offer laundering services for employee uniforms by a commercial, co-op or on-premise laundry, many employees choose drive to and from work in their scrubs and/or lab coats and home launder their own uniforms. This increases the risk of cross-contamination into the household, thus endangering the rest of their family’s health.
I personally find the notion of home laundering healthcare uniforms to be an unsafe practice. Why anyone would want to bring their uniforms worn in an environment filled with germs and various bacteria all day long home to co-mingle with the rest of their family’s clothing and environment is beyond me. Think about this - the hotter the water temperature, the easier it is to kill germs. According to local regulations and laws, water used in home washers will not exceed 120 degrees, whereas in the commercial laundry setting the water temperature is set for 145 – 165 degrees. Also, the chemicals used in an industrial laundry setting are much more powerful than those used at home.
Many healthcare facilities today are starting to realize the correlation between employees wearing uniforms outside of work and the health and well-being of their patients, as well as employees and their family members. The only way to combat or stop this spread of germs is to find a way to prevent healthcare professionals from wearing their uniforms in public.
Today, more and more healthcare facilities are starting to implement dress code policies stating that no employee can come to or leave work in scrubs, lab coats or any other work apparel. Such dress code implementations are being fought hard by some healthcare professionals as they see this as a nuisance instead of a safety factor. However, with the dollar reimbursements to healthcare facilities due to Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey scores, more facilities are implementing such new dress code policies.
More and more major healthcare facilities are taking the proactive lead in implementing a dress code policy, restricting healthcare professionals from wearing their uniforms in public and home laundering. In fact, a major U.S. healthcare system in the Midwest that implemented a like dress code policy saw acceptance by their employees and a decrease in sick days on their campuses. Bottom line, setting these reasonable limits work!
Check out our blog, An Apple A Day, for more information on "Should healthcare professionals wear scrubs in public?".