Oh great, one more thing to worry about when you go to the hospital – germs on the sleeves of your doctor. The Wall Street Journal Health Blog reports that the American Medical Association is going to consider recommending a new dress code for hospitals, and it will be “bare below the elbows.” Here are excerpts:
One of the policy questions that AMA delegates will consider at their annual conference next week is whether doctors should forgo their iconic white coats for something a little more casual — and a little less dangerous for patients. The measure would urge hospitals to adopt dress codes of “bare below the elbows,” to avoid carrying bacteria between patients via coat sleeves.
According to the CDC, nearly 100,000 U.S. patients died in 2002 from infections contracted in hospitals. There has been no conclusive evidence linking infected cuffs to any of these deaths — studies have been done showing that bacteria like MRSA and C. difficile exist on sleeves, but there’s no proof that those germs actually get passed around that way. But backers of the change in dress code argue that as long as there’s the slightest potential of transmission, everything possible should be done to avoid it.
The British National Health System has already adopted a policy, banning ties, long sleeves, jewelry and white coats, as the BBC reported. Scotland went so far as to establish a uniform dress code that includes a short-sleeve requirement.
One irony, notes the BBC, is that the spanking white coat was borrowed from lab scientists and introduced in hospitals in the 19th century in part to help prevent the spread of contamination.