Scrubs In Public: Do Or Don’t?

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

Nurse in Thought Image

We hate to break it to you, but wearing your hospital scrubs home could actually be a hazard. Health officials are concerned that deadly new “superbugs” spreading in some hospitals (think MRSA) can be transmitted unwittingly by those hospital staffers who wear their scrubs outside the building. The recent outbreak of CRE illustrates the importance of preventing the spread of superbugs.

Some hospitals have taken action, requiring staffers to change out of their scrubs before they leave the building. Some offer free scrubs laundry services to ensure that people outside the facility aren’t exposed.

Meanwhile, scrubs manufacturers are working on a number of solutions, including antimicrobial fabric and airtight bags for nurses to transport their scrubs straight from the medical facility to their washing machine.

So, what’s your reaction when you see medical personnel out in the world wearing scrubs? And are you a nurse who does? What kinds of reactions do you get from people in the grocery store? In the subway? On the street?

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
4 years ago

Bugs are every where people in and out of the hospital. Universal precautions protect nurses and staff in the hospital. Unless u have a patient with a smart bug or scabies or bacterial meningitis. There is no reason to change scrubs just to run to the store after work in your scrubs on a regular basis. Stop picking on nurses we save lives not expose people to diseases from our scrubs.

Keinia Bucknor
2 years ago

Meanwhile…doctors are running from room to room without washing their hands. Going to see patients on contact precautions with no gloves, gowns and using the same stethoscope from room to room….but our scrubs….Are spreading germs??? Give us a break!!!

4 years ago

Give me a break!!! We all know that PPE required for things like lice and scabies. Evidenced based research point to proper hand hygiene time and time again. Lice is more apt to occur in schools, and yet I don’t see instructors racing home to change clothes before shopping for groceries.

Wanda Clements
4 years ago

I think worse than wearing scrubs in public is wearing a lab coat that never gets washed and looks filthy. Many doctors, nurse managers, and mid-leveerl providers are guilty of keeping it hung in their office and never or rarely washing it.

5 years ago

Have we all forgotten our microbiology class???? I know my first lab was to wipe a wet cotton swab anywhere in the room or outside hallway and then plate it on agar. Every kind of bacteria known to man grew and probably a lot of unknowns. Have we also forgot about the physiology of the immune system? We build up our immune systems by being exposed to other germs/bugs. For example back in 1989 or 90 I was exposed to MRSA and I did a screen because I had a sinus issue at the time I tested positive, no surprise… Read more »

Janet L Marquez
4 years ago

Oh well gilty of the scrub in public. This is a mute conversation. To scrub or not to scrub, that is the question? We do our best to avoid germs, illness and all the in between, but yet we still grow old and die. Hand washing is still the biggest fighter against germs. Just keep doing that. The immune system works untill it doesnt. Know where you practice and go from there. Opinions, (public stares) are like germs we all have them and sharing them is a no brainer, but using good judgement is a given😇

Deneen Brown
3 years ago

So the antibiotic overuse, antibacterial everything is not to blame for the superbugs that have developed? Just a thought. People are worrying about what to wear to and from work but the real issue, antibiotics for a viral infection, goes untouched.

Gail Douglas
5 years ago

I worked in surgery where we had to change so scrubs stay in hospital & we didn’t bring anything (dog hair etc) into the OR but that only applied to the nurses. For some reason the lab, MD’s, x-ray personnel & others are thought not to be transporting germs into or out of the hospital. I still don’t understand that.

Diana W.
4 years ago

I’ve been an RN over 40 years. 39 of them as a psych. nurse. It was policy on the unit to wear street clothes to normalize the hospital experience. Everyone knows when you get a new manager they have to change everything- put their personal stamp on the unit. A recent new manager decreed that all night shift staff must wear scrub tops/jackets so patients could identify us as staff. I can tell you I never had any problem whatsoever with patients understanding I was staff. This was the manager’s own personal issue. Result- I had to buy a whole… Read more »

6 years ago

Household wash machines often cannot reach required temperature that kill superbugs and spores. Industrial laundry where hospital linen is processed reaches temps needed. They are monitored for these features.
Good luck getting profit driven corporations and those that claim not for profit for tax purposes to provide scrubs for people in surgery and the rest of the hospital. It cuts into their cost and profit.
Only when regulated with Joint Commision or other accrediting bodies will most execs comply.

Lisa H
1 year ago

Let’s wear the same mask over and over again. Our warm moist breath is a magnet for viruses and bacteria, yet you want to focus on scrubs?

Monique Burns
5 years ago

Not everyone wearing scrubs is involved w/ supergerms. I work in a School Nurse’s Office and I wear scrubs. I am around kids all day. To me it is like a regular outfit but w/ extra pockets. Over 600 kids could come running thru my office and only 2 being sick. Does that mean I’m now carrying the super virus in my scrubs? All the teachers could be carrying that same bug in their clothing that I could be in my scrubs. I can see it if you work in a hospital, however not everyone does. Please keep that in… Read more »

1 year ago

Is there an algorithm for common sense? I work in a procedure area and don’t have pt contact but occasionally step in blood, so I wear shoe covers and leave my shoes at the door. When I worked in the ED I wore a gown if indicated, changed my shoes and bagged before getting in car and changed clothes and showered before my kids hugged me. YES I stopped at store and gas station but no one hugged me there…

4 years ago

Nurses aren’t the only ones wearing scrubs. I have seen other professions in scrubs as well, such as; daycare workers, hair stylists, etc. While in hospitals, skilled nursing, or home health PPE’s are required to take care of standard and isolated patients. These are the same patients visited by families who refuse to comply with facility request to wear said PPE’s because “it is their loved one”.

4 years ago

I think one of the worst offenders (and there are many) are surgeons. They go from case to case and then lunch, dinner and home in the scrubs. Many throw on a lab coat but thats it. I even have problems getting them to keep their nose covered when masked. Many believe it is only intended to cover the mouth!!!

Pat M
6 years ago

Way back when I worked in critical care we wore our street clothes in then changed into scrubs and changed back into street clothes as the conclusion of the shift and the facility did the laundry. I think scrubs should be left in the hospital/nursing home and laundered by the facility. In the age of superbugs, MRSA, VRE, C-diff, ESBL…let’s leave them in the institution. I am not impressed when I see a person in the shopping center or grocery store wearing scrubs…in fact I think EEK and what’s worse is when someone wearing scrubs on the “outside” is holding… Read more »

6 years ago

Superbugs, humbug, and any other type of bugs are everywhere and it is not just with health care workers. I have been in health care for over 20 years and have not got sick or heard of anybody else getting sick because of us wearing our scrubs from work. With good universal precautions and hand washing I believe it’s okay. Besides we don’t know what germs the person who is standing beside us in the grocery store, in regular clothes may be carrying. But that’s just my opinion.

1 year ago

Not everyone who wears scrubs are nurses or even in the healthcare field. I work for a medical device manufacturer. We wear company provided scrubs to work, in the manufacturing clean room and then back home. I often stop at gas station, grocery store, etc going to and from work. I’m in a clean room all day, so while someone may assume my scrubs and I are dirty and contagious, I’m probably the cleanest person in the store. Here’s a bit of irony, in these days of Covid, I’ve found wearing scrubs in the grocery store keeps people away from… Read more »

1 year ago

I don’t work in a hospital. Many nurses don’t. People should stop jumping to conclusions and judging. No one has ever commented on my scrubs anyway.

Jan Lepinski, MSN RN, CIC
1 year ago

As an infection preventionist, I have always been against wearing scrubs in public. Microbes are carried into the hospital and conversely, into the community. It is a bad practice!

Barbara Butler
4 years ago

patients visit come and lay in the bed , everyone blames nurses. Wash your hands keep your clothes clean with 24 hour visiting and children in the hospital visiting everywhere. Just a another way to abuse nurse. Why don’t teachers wear special clothes they are with kids all day. Crap

4 years ago

I worked in the ER in the early 80s and when a woman was raped, we took her clothes for evidence, but gave her a pair of hospital scrubs to wear home when she was discharged. So, if we ever saw someone on the street with scrubs on, only the hospital personnel knew the real story. So, besides all the germs, I wouldn’t wear scrubs in public, on purpose. A few years down the road, in the 90s, I was working in a different state, but in the ER and the hospital didn’t want to provide scrubs to save on… Read more »

5 years ago

Like everything, I believe this 100% about money. It saves the hospital/clinic/facility money if the employees have to buy and launder their own scrubs. Also, the facility would have to provide areas where staff could shower and change clothes. Lastly, staff would insist on being able to clock in BEFORE having to dress into said uniform and shower and change out of it.

I think YES that IS the way it should be, but everyone knows that at hospitals, the least amount of money goes to actually paying the worker staff.

Anne Matthews
6 years ago

Ok I am an old NICU nurse. We always wore hospital laundered scrubs. We didn’t buy our own or wear our own. Every thing changed when they decided scrubs don’t carry germs. Now this. Just proves the old school ways are best! ???

6 years ago

I am on the fence with this one. I agree if the person is coming from work, and they have been exposed or potentially.. They should change.. But what about the nurse who is running into the store before work to grab a cup of joe? Must we make her life even more hectic by making her leave 15/20 min earlier for work to change?

Mimi M
1 year ago

Guilty nurse here. I am not going home to change out of my scrubs to go to the gas station, pick up something from the grocery store or run a quick errand. Once I’m home, it’s a rap. Keep your distance and wash/sanitize those hands. You will be fine. But hey, I work in a clinic. When I worked the floor and ICU, I got gas if needed but otherwise went straight home, and stayed.

Lisa Zahina
1 year ago

I have had multiple patients originally test covid negative, then are positive during the same admission. As they are “clean” on the floor I work on.. we wear our own scrubs and come home in same. When patients are positive, they go to a different floor. Where there are uniforms available. This is a huge risk to my family. As most of my patients are not on contact or airborne precautions. Until they “suddenly” are positive. Then the gowns go on, they are Transferred….but while they weren’t, my clothes could have gotten contaminated. Our clothes touch people, their beds/linens. All… Read more »

1 year ago

I’m a hospice nurse and do home healthcare, therefore I always wear my scrubs uniform back and forth from my home to that of others, and yes, sometimes stop at the grocery store on the way home.

1 year ago

I have been a nurse for almost 37 years. Many of those years spent working in ICU caring for many patients with isolation worthy diseases. Back in the day if I took care of a patient with MRSA, VRE, HIV, meningitis, etc. I would strip in the garage, bag my scrubs and take them straight up to the washing machine and then shower. Today I work at an Ambulatory Surgery Center and scrubs are laundered there. I don’t see the harm in wearing scrubs into the store on your way home if your not caring for patients with known super… Read more »

1 year ago

hello.. nosocomial infection… iatrogenic illness…. my biggest pet peeve with coworkers that go out for lunch and those that make multiple stops in scrubs before work.. I would be remiss without mentionining Drs ties. lose that thing

Tony RN
1 year ago

What a Crock Take a course in Virology 101

Mary Lou
2 years ago

I think hand hygiene should remain the focus. However, when I worked in the hospital I also had a routine of changing my shoes. As soon as I reached my car, I would change out of my shoes and into my street shoes. I kept a box in my trunk for those. I figured, of all the things on me this was the most germ laden. We are also a no shoe household (we do wear “house shoes”), so even my street shoes never make it beyond the entry to track dirt/germs into the house. Another rule I had: no… Read more »

Charlie W
4 years ago

I’d gladly leave scrubs at work if they supplied and washed them. My scrubs get more wrinkles from putting in bag to carry to work than wearing

Lily Wyman
4 years ago

I live an hour and 15 minutes from the hospital and when I go to work I usually meet a friend for coffee. My scrubs are clean as I have not worked. I do not see a problem with wearing scrubs before going to work.

Claudia Surovjak
4 years ago

I’ve worked in surgery for 36 years and our policy has always been to wear street clothes to work, change into hospital laundered scrubs and change back into your street clothes at the end of your shift. However, I am allergic to whatever detergent they are laundered in so I take the freshly laundered scrubs home, wash them in my own detergent, wear them to work carrying my clean street clothes which I change into at end of shift thereby leaving contaminated scrubs and shoes at the hospital to be laundered there. Over the years it has been a constant… Read more »

Ayanna Lowry
4 years ago

I don’t think this is a black and white issue. This article is based on the author thinking that the nurse is leaving from work with scrubs on. This may not be true. Keep in mind, just because you are a nurse, we are not all working at a hospital. I work in an office and half the time I wear scrubs because they are comfortable. Some people wear scrubs to go out to run errands. Keep in mind the bacteria and viruses in the hospital is already in the community.

Richard Grupen
6 years ago

What about Home Health Nurses !! If going from home to home how will we stop the spread of “Bugs”??
We can with our hands, on a daily basis that’s about it !! The patients go home with the Superbugs, and some do not know it. So, this leaves a question that is hard to answer. (Completely).

Toni Hicks
6 years ago

When we had to start buying our own scrubs, I washed mine separately from other wash at home and ironed them. I ironed them because I was taught that ironing linens killed a lot of bacteria. Then they were brought to work in a plastic bag and placed in my locker. I am an old nurse, 53 years and counting. In my current nursing job as an in-home infusion nurse of specialty medications, I generally wear washable street clothes. I don’t wear a lab coat either as too often I see them worn as a symbol rather than a safety… Read more »

Lorey S
6 years ago

What about the visitors? It’s true, these patients arrive at the hospital with these germs, are put on contact precautions and are discharged like nothing is wrong! It is called universal precautions. I leave the hospital sometimes for my lunch break and walk over to subway. There isn’t time to be changing your clothes to go eat lunch and then change again after lunch! We barely have time to eat at all! This is absolute nonsense. I cannot think of anytime when I say that close to someone else in a restraunt, no one has ever come up to me… Read more »

6 years ago

Interesting article, but it’s a little narrow in its scope. While infection control is important, there are other issues. Like workplace violence. Too many people see nurses as legitimate targets, and some folks have a grievance, real or imagined, and it doesn’t make sense to wear that target on your back in public. Then there’s personal behavior. If your employer requires you to wear scrubs embroidered with their logo, you have to remember that everything you do and say reflects on the organization – for better or worse. When you wear their brand, you have to be careful about your… Read more »

Anthony Cardoso
1 month ago

During The peak of COVID in 2020, one day I was so tired, I left the hospital and went straight to supermarket. I only wear white scrubs. I am 6’1′, 170 lbs. When I entered the supermarket I received some weird looks. As a browsed thru the aisles, a couple of mothers pulled their teenage kinds out of my way. I sincerely felt irritated. I mentally asked the other shoppers: “can you see I am just hungry?”. Needless to say, grabbed my items as quickly as I could and left.

3 months ago

I’ve been a Tele nurse for 23 years. My opinion is to wear scrubs to, at, and from work only. I don’t agree with playing with dogs/cats before work where you might get hair and dander on your uniform. Too many people have allergies to these substances. Maybe stop for coffee “to go” if you’re wearing a coat over the scrub. My rationale is: Don’t pick up any germs on the way to work. Don’t pass any along on the way home.

8 months ago

The article raises a good point. It also just goes to show how behavior, even that of professionals, is ultimately based more on tradition than common sense. I remember that when I was in medical school back in the 1970’s, many of the residents carried a hypodermic needle with them at all times for the purpose of testing pinprick sensation. The doctors went from patient to patient without ever changing the needles. No one ever questioned this practice!

Roberta Harris
1 year ago

During this pandemic, I always change my scrubs before I leave the hospital in the restroom closest to the exit. I bag my work wear in a plastic bag and place it in a designated work bag. I place those scrubs into a plastic sealable bin in the back of my car. I also change my shoes when I get to my car. I also carry a container of antibacterial wipes to wipe whatever I need to in my car.I spray my work shoes and all work bags with my can of Lysol .I take my work clothes collection to… Read more »

1 year ago

I’m a pediatric RN who has been retired 15+ years. I wore my scrubs home but would strip off at the door, putting the scrubs strait into the washer. That was after my husband would come down with whatever virus (RSV etc) the kids had. After washing my scrubs immediately after work, he didn’t get sick. In this day, I think we need to revert to wearing street clothes home after showering and changing at work. Not just nurses, but doctors, Med students, aides, clerks. Hospitals should issue scrubs to be returned at end of shift, washed by the hospital.… Read more »

2 years ago


4 years ago

the solution is simple I just come to the hospital early and switch out my scrubs after a long day I just don’t feel like changing into my street cloths but I am fine getting there early and changing into fresh scrubs

What Nurses REALLY Think About Scrubs In Public | Modern Nurse Magazine
4 years ago

[…] just say our Scrubs In Public article caught a lot of your attention. With some hospitals taking action that requires staffers to […]

4 years ago

Like nobody ever went out with dog poo on their shoe? Or sat on a bench that someone else had spat upon. Maybe the germs from that crawled up your pant leg and jumped into the bananas!

Tamara King
4 years ago

I agree, but that being said they need to allow for time to change and have a big enough area to change clothes in.