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Improving Infection Control Could Mean No More White Coats

Infection control experts issue guidance on health professionals' attire

THURSDAY, Jan. 30, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Health care personnel should consider their clinical attire, such as white lab coats, carefully with regards to risk of transmitting infection, according to guidelines published in the February issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

Gonzalo Bearman, M.D., M.P.H., from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, and colleagues evaluated the literature on health care personnel attire with regards to perceptions of professionalism, evidence of contamination, and the risk of transmitting microorganisms. They also surveyed members of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America on current policies on health care personnel attire.

The researchers recommend that clinical attire should be "bare above the elbows," with short sleeves and no wristwatch, jewelry, or ties. For facilities that recommend or mandate white coats, at least two coats should be available and coats should be removed before contact with patients. Attire should be laundered frequently. Footwear should have closed toes, low heels, and non-skid soles. Shared medical equipment should be cleaned between patients, and any item coming into contact with the patient environment should be disinfected, replaced, or eliminated. While patients preferred formal attire, this did not impact patient satisfaction and confidence, and they did not perceive the infection risk.

"Institutions considering these optional measures should introduce them with a well-organized communication and education effort directed at both health care professionals and patients," Bearman and colleagues write.

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