Do You Wash Your White Coat Often Enough?

Shelly Reese


November 21, 2016

Appropriate Caution or Paranoia?

Clinicians Spreading Germs

In hospitals, patients are supposed to get better, not worse. And doctors are considered healers, not agents of harm. But evidence shows that insufficient hand-washing by clinicians spreads germs.

Infection-control experts are exploring how, other than hand transmission, physicians and healthcare workers are spreading germs.

As a result, virtually everything a doctor takes from room to room—including stethoscopes, cell phones and mobile devices, ID badges on lanyards, clothing, and lab coats—has come under scrutiny as a potential vehicle for microbugs seeking a lift. To date, though, the research hasn't produced the smoking gun that evidence-minded physicians demand.

That's left the medical community divided between those endorsing the better-safe-than-sorry approach, based on the "biologic plausibility" that clothing and other items can be vectors for infection, and those who say unproven theories should not shape healthcare practices.

Where is the line between practical patient protection and overblown fears? It depends who you ask. Physicians are divided.


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