It is said that hospitals are no place for sick people. When you look at statistics for patients who receive infections during a hospital stay, you’ll understand why. Every year in the U.S., an estimated 1.7 million patients acquire infections while in the hospital, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The White Coat
Some of these deaths may be attributed to the very clothes doctors wear, specifically their white coats, or lab coats. Although it has long been a symbol of the profession, doctors themselves are calling for an end to the practice of wearing them because they can carry pathogens from patient to patient as they make their rounds. Adding to the problem is that the coats do not receive professional laundering on a regular basis, sometimes going months between cleanings. Bacteria such as MRSA and CRE, known as superbugs because of their resistance to medication, can survive up to 56 days on the average white coat.
The scope of the problem goes beyond hospitals, however. Transfer of bacteria is prevalent in all types of nursing facilities and health clinics. And it’s not just the doctors who are transferring pathogens. Because they have adopted the habit of wearing lab coats that don’t receive regular cleaning, nurses and many other health care workers are spreading bacteria and viruses between patients.
Some doctors have decided to forego wearing a white coat as a means of containing the problem. For others, the jacket symbolizes a type of “rank” that they have worked long and hard to be able to wear. Some also feel that their coats are no more harmful than the street clothes they wear beneath the coats. Besides being a status symbol, the coat is a handy place to stash pens, eyeglasses and tools of the trade, such as a stethoscope.
Lab coats also provide the added benefit of putting a patient’s mind at ease. A recent study showed that patient satisfaction can increase if their physician is wearing a lab coat. Lab coats projects authority, expertise, and confidence, and many patients feel more comfortable with a doctor who is dressed the part.
Additionally, healthcare workers have many colors and patterns to choose from in today’s scrubs, the standard industry clothing. Some facilities have taken to having workers wear lab coats over their scrubs to display a more uniform and professional appearance. For facilities that prefer the coats, as well as those who wish to retain the status symbol or convenience of wearing them, professional laundering services offer a solution to help contain the spread of pathogens to patients.
The Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council (HLAC) is an organization that sets hygienic standards for laundry used in healthcare settings. To become accredited, members such as hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices must meet standards that cover a range of processes, from handling and transportation to laundering and delivery of that laundry to the client. The layout of a laundry facility, employee training methods and even customer service are additional areas that come under accreditation standards, as well as compliance with OSHA requirements.
For more information on how professional laundering of lab coats can help you contain the risk of cross-infecting patients, contact Morgan Healthcare, who specialize in healthcare laundering. Ask about our Lab Coat Program and how you can benefit.