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Scrubs In Public: Do Or Don’t?

  • Publish Date: Posted about 4 years ago
  • Author:by Leanne Howell

With it being National Patient Safety Awareness Week, our blogs are all about safety. There was an article on the Modern Nurse website recently, which was republished from SCRUBS Magazine, which set a debate of whether scrubs should be worn in public or whether this is actually a hazard to patients as well as the wider community. To access the article click the following link: .

The question is obviously a hotly debated topic as the opinions of the healthcare professionals left in the comments section in the article was very varied indeed! Another article in the journal “Physician’s Weekly” covers the opinion of a retired surgeon, and subsequent opinions of those who have commented on the article. That is available here: .

Many years ago, most hospitals would not have allowed staff to take their uniform home, let alone wear it outside of the hospital. Staff would change from their uniform at the hospital at the end of their shift, and they would be laundered onsite. However nowadays most nurses will home-launder their uniforms, and it is not uncommon for staff to be allowed to travel into work, ready in their uniform to start their shift.

However some people object to hospital staff wearing scrubs outside of the clinical area because of the potential for the transmission of organisms - both to patients within hospital with organisms from the wider community, and to the wider community with organisms prevalent within the hospital. In hospital and the community we have immunocompromised patients who could all become severely unwell due to the slightest of infections. So called “super bugs” that have acquired some level of antibiotic resistance are a major cause for concern, and could wearing scrubs in public increase exposure to the general public?

However requiring staff to change on the premises means that there should be adequate dedicated space to change, plus facilities such as lockers.  There would be significant costs to an organisation if they were to launder the uniforms of all staff. Not all staff have direct contact with patients, and proper use of PPE and having good hand hygiene practices could reduce the chance of major colonisation on clothing worn on-shift. Another factor to think about – is your mobile phone a source of infection risk? Many nurses and other healthcare staff keep them in their pocket, and may look at them during breaks in patient care.  

I myself have had varied experience in the past, with some employers allowing us to travel to work in uniform, and others forbidding it (work shoes and uniform to be worn on site only). None of the organisations I worked for laundered the uniforms (except scrubs that were to be used in the OR). There does not seem to be a definite answer to the title question of this blog, but there are certainly lots of arguments for and against. What are your personal experiences and opinions about wearing your scrubs to work?