Healthcare Personnel Attire in Non-operating-room Settings

Gonzalo Bearman, MD, MPH; Kristina Bryant, MD; Surbhi Leekha, MBBS, MPH; Jeanmarie Mayer, MD; L. Silvia Munoz-Price, MD; Rekha Murthy, MD; Tara Palmore, MD; Mark E. Rupp, MD; Joshua White, MD

Disclosures

Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2014;35(2):107-121. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Abstract

Healthcare personnel (HCP) attire is an aspect of the medical profession steeped in culture and tradition. The role of attire in cross-transmission remains poorly established, and until more definitive information exists priority should be placed on evidence-based measures to prevent healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). This article aims to provide general guidance to the medical community regarding HCP attire outside the operating room. In addition to the initial guidance statement, the article has 3 major components: (1) a review and interpretation of the medical literature regarding (a) perceptions of HCP attire (from both HCP and patients) and (b) evidence for contamination of attire and its potential contribution to cross-transmission; (2) a review of hospital policies related to HCP attire, as submitted by members of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) Guidelines Committee; and (3) a survey of SHEA and SHEA Research Network members that assessed both institutional HCP attire policies and perceptions of HCP attire in the cross-transmission of pathogens. Recommendations for HCP attire should attempt to balance professional appearance, comfort, and practicality with the potential role of apparel in the cross-transmission of pathogens. Although the optimal choice of HCP attire for inpatient care remains undefined, we provide recommendations on the use of white coats, neckties, footwear, the bare-below-the-elbows strategy, and laundering. Institutions considering these optional measures should introduce them with a well-organized communication and education effort directed at both HCP and patients. Appropriately designed studies are needed to better define the relationship between HCP attire and HAIs.

Introduction

Healthcare personnel (HCP) attire is an aspect of the medical profession steeped in culture and tradition. From Hippocrates's admonition that physicians' dress is essential to their dignity, to the advent of nurses' uniforms under the leadership of Florence Nightingale, to the white coat ceremonies that continue to this day in medical schools, HCP apparel and appearance is associated with significant symbolism and professionalism. Recent years, however, have seen a rising awareness of the potential role of fomites in the hospital environment in the transmission of healthcare-associated microorganisms. Although studies have demonstrated contamination of HCP apparel with potential pathogens, the role of clothing in transmission of these microorganisms to patients has not been established. The paucity of evidence has stymied efforts to produce generalizable, evidence-based recommendations, resulting in widely disparate practices and requirements that vary by country, region, culture, facility, and discipline. This document is an effort to analyze the available data, issue reasonable recommendations, and describe the needs for future studies to close the gaps in knowledge on HCP attire.

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