Scrubs shouldn’t be street clothes

By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: February 17th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

They’re green, comfy and look like pajamas. But scrubs… the loose clothing worn by doctors and nurses around the globe… are causing a headache for hospital administrators these days.

The problem stems not from the unflattering outfits themselves, but by the people who increasingly insist on wearing them outside a medical facility. Thanks to the popularity of television shows such as E-R or Grey’s Anatomy, scrubs are cool. And they are certainly comfortable.

Why is this a problem? First of all, the clothes aren’t cheap. Officials at one Canadian hospital estimate vanishing scrubs cost more than twenty-five-thousand dollars per year. The shortage has gotten so bad that one Canadian community has made poaching scrubs a crime. Any unauthorized person seen wearing scrubs in the city of Fredericton will be prosecuted.

The other big issue: hygiene. While hospitals are meticulous about requiring employees to wash their hands, they are more lax about requiring them to change out of soiled scrubs before exiting hospital doors. In fact, doctors and nurses are frequently seen around town in their greens.

Some researchers fear this could spread infection. Some European hospitals have adopted strict provisions about the clothing health-care professionals wear. Workers must change into hospital-provided scrubs when they arrive, and must change before leaving for the day.

On this side of the Atlantic, researchers suggest we take a cue from the fashion police and leave the scrubs where they belong. Just because they’re comfortable doesn’t mean they’re stylish… or safe.