The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, a professional group whose mission is to prevent and control infections in the medical workplace, has issued guidance on what health care workers should wear outside of the operating room.
The paper, in the February issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, suggests that to minimize infection risk, hospitals might want to adopt a “bare below the elbows” policy that includes short sleeves and no wristwatch, jewelry or neckties during contact with patients.
The authors also recommend that if the use of white coats is not entirely abandoned, each doctor should have at least two, worn alternately and laundered frequently. And even if they wear the coat at other times, they should be encouraged to remove it before approaching patients.
The authors emphasize that the recommendations are based more on the biological plausibility of transmitting infection through clothing than on strong scientific evidence, which is limited.
The lead author, Dr. Gonzalo Bearman, a professor of medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University, said that hand washing, bathing patients with antibacterial soap, and checklists for inserting...