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Hospital Uniforms Filled With Dangerous Bacteria
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Hospital Uniforms Filled With Dangerous Bacteria

Hospital personnel have worn uniforms to work for many years. The idea of the uniform is two-fold; the workers clothes are protected and the patients are protected. The workers in the hospital, i.e. doctors, nurses, assistants, secretaries, technicians, environmental services and all others that wear a uniform primarily look at the uniform as a protection for themselves against the harmful pathogens that are present in medical settings. In areas of operating suites, oncology or cancer wards, burn wards, and a few other areas, the uniform is protecting the patient from the harmful bacteria that we carry in to the area; in these instances, the uniform or outer covering is changed prior to tending to the patient.

In years long ago, the uniform was primarily worn to encourage sanitary conditions. The uniform was white, starched, and very professional looking. Nurses wore caps with stripes that indicated what type of nurse it was. The more stripes, the more educated the nurse. The uniforms and caps frequently were soiled and hopefully cleaned just as often. It wasn’t that many years ago really that nurses went to school donning a cap. A good imagination can tell where this cap landed a few times. It was frequently cleaned and re-starched. Back then, nurses wore white and every other department had their own colors with physicians and laboratory personnel wearing white lab coats. The hospital uniforms were often filled with dangerous bacteria.

Society has changed and the outlook and studies of uniforms have changed also. Uniforms for all personnel are much more relaxed and they come in pretty and handsome designs and logos. Sometimes it is difficult to discern the person tending to the patient. Sometimes roles get mixed up because patients, especially the elderly get confused on who is who since the uniforms are not standard anymore. One of the good things about uniforms is that they now can come with antimicrobial material so that they are not filled with dangerous bacteria.

How bad is this bacteria? If you are one of the unlucky recipients of the bacteria and it has made you ill, it is very harmful. But generally speaking, porous surfaces don’t breed bacteria too well. Bacteria and other harmful pathogens love non-porous surfaces. This is good when thinking of the hospital worker in their scrubs shopping in the produce department, except for one thing… produce is living; therefore, if the pH of the produce is just right, the bacteria transmitted to the produce will thrive and can be transmitted to you. We don’t want the uniform filled with dangerous bacteria to contaminate our food. How do you protect yourself? The best protection is wash, wash, wash. Wash your hands (or use alcohol based hand sanitizer) after you load your groceries in the car. Remember that the grocery cart is non-porous and laden with everyone’s germs on it. Wash the produce when you get it home. I prefer to place water and dish soap in the sink and swirl the produce around, following with a good rinse. Place in the refrigerator in a different container than the one it came home in. And finally, wash your hands (or use an alcohol based hand sanitizer) prior to touching your face or eating. This will help you protect yourself from dangerous bacteria.

What should healthcare workers do? Wear separate clothes inside the healthcare institution than at home. Shop carefully without contaminating items at the store if shopping on the way home, or better yet, shop when in street clothes. Clean hands prior to leaving work. Leave shoes at the door once home. Launder uniforms daily, even lab coats. Older studies indicate that bacterial contamination on lab coats is stagnant after day two. Clean that uniform that is filled with dangerous bacteria.

Bacteria is all around us and on every surface. We cannot live in a bubble, but we can help protect ourselves and others. Healthcare personnel have the obligation to do no harm. Doing no harm also means to aid in the protection of others from contamination that we receive in the workplace, when able. Workplace contamination rarely results in epidemic or potentially epidemic infections; however, when it comes to viruses like chickenpox or smallpox, all bets are off. Don’t worry too much about the healthcare worker in the produce department wearing the hospital uniform filled with dangerous bacteria, just protect yourself by washing your hands and produce when you are out of the store.


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