As a medical professional, you know how vital cleanliness is for your own health as well as your patients’. You wash your hands an untold number of times per day, use hand sanitizer dispensers before and after seeing a patient, keep your nails trim, tuck back your hair, and hopefully cover your mouth when you cough. But what if this isn’t enough to prevent spreading germs? Surprisingly, your own medical scrubs can cause diseases to spread, called Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs.) Approximately 99,000 patients in the United States alone die every year from these diseases, including MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), VRE (Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococci), and C. diff to name a few – a truly alarming statistic.
According to NurseTogether.com, these diseases are typically spread through hard and soft surface contamination, with hard surface contamination being the more preventable of the two. Hard surface contamination, such as germs on a countertops, is easy to get rid of and disinfect. However, soft surface contamination is the more elusive of the two since many medical professionals think that a quick laundry wash will eliminate the risk of infection. The most commonly contaminated soft surfaces include patient gowns, blankets, towels, sheets, privacy curtains (which rarely get cleaned), and your scrubs! According to a study conducted at a university-affiliated hospital in Colorado, 52% of nurses’ uniforms were contaminated with MRSA just by the end of their shift!
With these alarmingly high rates of HAI infections, what can you do to avoid becoming a statistic? For starters, you should take off your scrubs immediately after you return home from work to avoid contaminating your family and friends with these diseases. Put your scrubs in a separate dirty laundry bin and wash them apart from other clothes – it’s possible for bacteria to transfer to other items of clothing in the wash. Swap out older scrubs with anti-microbial scrubs that reduce the risk of transmitting HAIs. Also, check out Uniform Advantage’s Stain Removal infographic which provides a great visual on tips to remove specific stains.
What do you do to keep your scrubs clean and HAI free?