Disease-causing bacteria can thrive in white lab coats, scrub tops, neck ties, stethoscopes, and even common accessories used by medical professionals. In 1991, the British Medical Journal published a research showing Staphylococcus aureus bacteria could reside on physician's white lab coats. Consequently, the National Health Services of United Kingdom advised doctors to wear elbow-length lab coats. Meanwhile, the American Medical Association in 2009 also considered a no-lab coat policy in the US, which was not actually embraced popularly. Some even proposed in cajole that doctors must go naked to avoid spread of disease caused by dirty lab coats
However, there are better ways than banning the use of medical uniforms all together. Here are some important pointers that you need to remember to make sure you stop the spread of diseases caused by bacteria that may thrive in your laboratory coats:
1. Similar to any kind of clothing, lab coats can harbor harmful bacteria
A doctor's white lab coat conveys a sense of professionalism to anxious patients giving them the assurance that their conditions will be dealt with competence. Certainly, the white lab coat is a representation of this viewpoint, but it also provides the added practicality of being a uniform that is easy to identify, easy to wash, and easily changed compared to usual casual clothes. To put it simply, white lab coats are easy to distinguish if it is already dirty.
2. Medical lab coats must be washed every day
A research study conducted by Denver Health Medical Center included a random controlled unit with 100 doctors, half of which were asked to wear their regular lab coats, while the other half were asked to wear newly washed short-sleeve scrubs. The result: bacterial level for the newly washed medical uniforms were basically zero, but after only three hours, the colony count were about 50% of those counted after the eight-hour shift. Researchers recommend daily laundry for white lab coats. Uniforms that are infrequently laundered have the higher chance to harbor disease-causing germs including the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus
3. Doctors must wash hands before and after contact with their patients
Regular hand-washing is a must not only for doctors and other medical professionals but for all people who are inside the hospital. Physicians must wash their hands thoroughly and apply hand sanitizer before and after contact with their patients. Bacteria from unwashed hands may cause infection to the patient, and bacteria from the patients can be transferred to other patients. World Health Organization or WHO recognizes the importance of ensuring that medical professionals wash hands regularly.
4. Doctors must observe personal hygiene
Aside from maintaining good appearance, doctors must also observe personal hygiene. This includes taking shower every day, covering mouth if coughing, avoid spitting in public, proper disposal of waste, and many more. Ensuring personal hygiene will make you healthy, which is important to take care of your patients.
5. Doctors must observe medical hygiene
Another important measure that you must consider to avoid spread of diseases is to observe medical hygiene. Remember, aside from white lab coats, medical accessories can also be infected and transmit bacteria. Hence, medical tools and instruments must be sterilized at all times, and the physician must also use protective clothing such as lab gowns, masks, surgical gloves, and eyewear. Medical waste must also be disposed safely and reusable items must also be disinfected, which includes white medical lab coats.