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Hospital Personnel Attire in Non-Operating Room Settings

The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) has issued a general overview and guidance about hospital personnel attire outside the operating or procedure rooms. The guidance is intended to help hospitals in establishing staff dress code policies that support infection control and patient safety.

As the report indicates, healthcare personnel attire is steeped with tradition and symbolism — the white coat, for example — but research has shown that this clothing can be contaminated with pathogens. There is little research, however, on the role apparel actually plays in transmitting these pathogens to patients. The SHEA team investigation had 3 components:

  1. Review and interpretation of the medical literature as it relates to both patient and clinician perceptions of clinician attire and the evidence of clothing contamination and its potential for cross contamination
  2. Review of hospital policies related to healthcare attire
  3. Survey of SHEA members about their perceptions and institutional policies

White coats/uniforms, short-sleeve/bare below the elbow attire, scrubs, ties, footwear, laundering/change of clothing, use of name tags, non-apparel items [watches/jewelry] worn or carried, and personal protective equipment are each discussed, at least briefly, in the review.

More research is recommended on the relationship between healthcare attire and healthcare associated infections. In the meantime, SHEA recommends the emphasis for preventing HAIs should be on stronger evidence-based measures: hand hygiene, appropriate device insertion/care, patient isolation for communicable diseases, and environmental disinfection.

Source: Bearman G and others. SHEA expert guidance: Healthcare personnel attire in non-operating room settings. Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. vol. 35, Feb. 2014, pp. 107-121. http://www.shea-online.org/View/ArticleId/249/Healthcare-Personnel-Attire-in-Non-Operating-Room-Settings-SHEA-Expert-Guidance.aspx

Posted by AHA Resource Center (312) 422-2050, rc@aha.org

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