Hospital Infection Risk May Be Reduced by New Guidance on Dress Codes

A leading medical association has issued new guidelines that suggest the way health care professionals dress may reduced the risk of hospital infections.  

The new guidance was announced by the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) this month, and published in the medical journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. SHEA hopes the new guidance will help prevent cross contamination of infectious agents from one patient to another in health care facilities.

The guidance calls for non-surgical healthcare workers to wear white lab coats with short sleeves, leaving hands and forearms bare. It calls for the coats to be washed once per week at minimum. The guidance also directs medical staff not to wear watches and rings, and calls for footwear to have closed toes, low heels, and nonskid soles.

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The recommendations are less specific on other accessories, both decorative and necessary for the health care setting; including things like lanyards, name tags, badges and cell phones. However it recommends that any such items that come into contact with patients should be disinfected, replaced or removed.

Not only did the researchers look at data on outbreaks linked to healthcare personnel attire, but they also looked at numerous studies on patient and healthcare worker perceptions of attire worn in the medical setting to generate the new guidelines.

More than 2 million hospital infections and 1.5 million nursing home and long term care infections occur each year, according to the CDC.

In recent years, an increasing number of medical malpractice lawsuits over hospital infections are being filed, as many experts believe that these infections can be prevented with the exercise of reasonable care.

According to prior research, preventable hospital infections cost the U.S. Economy nearly $19.5 billion in 2008 and claimed more than 2,500 lives that year.

Implementation of simple procedures, such as more frequent hand washing for healthcare professionals, timely removal of catheters deterring prolonged use and thorough instrument and patient room cleaning are widely recognized steps that can prevent many of these hospital infection problems.

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