You know the importance of using gloves, clean instruments and taking other steps to minimize the spread of disease between patients and to avoid getting sick yourself throughout the hospital. Understanding how keeping your scrubs clean is paramount in reducing health hazards. Odds are your workplace has protocols in place for keeping your scrubs clean, but if you work at a smaller practice or in a less hands-on role, you may be solely responsible, and if you're not careful, you could come in contact with infectious bacteria.
Risks to consider
The most prevalent communicable diseases can be very common in hospitals and community doctors offices. Unfortunately, these can spread despite strict safety measures. Researchers at Duke University recently discovered that unclean beds, rooms and supplies can quickly contaminate nurses' scrubs. As many as 1 in 25 patients in an ICU setting may suffer from hospital-acquired infections, but this study highlighted the risk nurses and other clinical professionals face. Dr. Deverick J. Anderson, lead author and associate professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Duke University Medical Center, explained the implications of the findings.
The sleeves and pockets of scrubs were found most likely to be covered in common bacteria, many of which have shown growing immunity to antibiotics in recent years. These include Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Even beyond the ICU, nurses should exercise caution and be aware of the risk of dangerous germs.
Important safety tips
Your workplace protocols for promoting safety and limiting the possibility of infection may not extend to your scrubs. And if you aren't careful, you could unwittingly bring dangerous bacteria home with you. In a 2012 study conducted at the University of Michigan School of Nursing, the authors concluded that nurses need to be especially cautious when handling work clothes to minimize the spread of MRSE and other common bacteria.
When you reach your house or apartment, be sure to change out of your scrubs immediately. Store these in a separate laundry bag and wash scrubs away from your regular clothes, as bacteria can spread even in soap and water. Running the heat on its highest setting and using an iron can also help kill off germs and pathogens. Be sure to use best practices like regular hand washing to avoid unnecessary risk or exposure.
Cheap scrubs vs more expensive ones?
One problem that can be difficult to rectify is deciding between cheap scrubs that are easy to dispose of and more expensive ones. If you opt for nicer scrubs, you may have fewer pairs and for that reason be less inclined to wash them as regularly. Cheap scrubs, meanwhile, are not only easier to wash but you'll be quicker to part ways with a set of scrubs that have been infected. If you do opt for fewer, more expensive scrubs, it's wise to invest in anti-microbial material. This isn't a one-stop solution for protecting yourself from infection, but it gives you a little more protection from bacteria and other germs.