Etiquette: Should Scrubs Be Worn in Public?

By Chance Fletcher
Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - 9:44am

People wonder if there are health hazards associated with doctors, nurses and other staff who wear scrubs outside of a hospital. Germs go both ways. Everyone has to wear an outfit to work. Hospital staff, including custodians, wears scrubs to work on a daily basis.

People Are Afraid
Even though there is no evidence that scrubs worn to work can spread disease or illnesses, a lot of people have it in their head that contagious diseases can spread from scrubs. Obviously, people tend to associate scrubs with doctors, surgeons and assistants in the operating room. These reasons lead people to believe that these professionals are contaminating their work environment with germs.

Is there any proof that you can spread diseases this way? Nurse scrubs are often washed at home. In high-risk areas or when scrubs get particularly dirty, there are routines in place to get those washed ASAP. Scrubs are usually not washed at the hospital, unless the person actually is a surgeon. Surgeons actually only dress into scrubs moments before operation to prevent the spread of bacteria. Then, they remove them after the task is finished.

Germs have been found on scrubs, but other items also carry germs, including cell phones, ties and pens. Should doctors, hospital staff and nurses stop bringing their items to work with them?

There has been no proof that scrubs spread disease through bacteria on clothing. There has been no scientific link between wearing scrubs to work and an increase of disease. In turn, this also means that the people eating lunch next to the staff in scrubs have no risk of infection. Just because something could have germs on it, does not mean that it does.

Professionals seem to have come to a conclusion about the ethical nature of wearing scrubs in public. Scrubs have been dramatized by television shows, and this has
led to nurse scrubs widespread popularity to the general population. There is no shortage of scrubs on the market either.

Wearing scrubs in public is an advertisement of your profession. It is more of a competition on who looks best in scrubs. How is that professional? It’s not, really, this is why many doctors, nurses and surgeons will not wear their scrubs outside of the hospital.

In some hospitals, scrubs are the mandatory article of clothing for anyone who works there – mandatory uniforms. There is no such thing as doctor scrubs, nurse scrubs or custodian scrubs. Anyone can go to a store and buy scrubs. Scrubs come in hot pink, camouflage, grey or any color you can name. You can find many groups of people who wear scrubs, and not all of them are hospital staff. Are these people being unprofessional as well?

No, scrubs are glorified pajamas. It is an outfit traditionally worn by surgeons and hospital staff. However, nurse scrubs are more mainstream than ever before in pop culture. Do not be shocked to find out that the person wearing scrubs is actually a business professional or artist.

In fact, why does it matter that hospital staff wears their scrubs outside of the hospital? They have to take a quick break to get food for lunch, just like any other worker.

Since there is no article of clothing considered only nurse scrubs or doctor scrubs, it has nothing to do with professionalism. Scrubs are readily available to the public. You cannot exactly consider someone unprofessional for wearing a set of scrubs outside of a hospital if they do not work in a hospital. And the evidence is against doing so, even if they do.