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.

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2 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.

Wanda Clements
2 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.

2 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.

Keinia Bucknor
8 months 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!!!

Janet L Marquez
2 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
2 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.

Diana W.
2 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 »

Gail Douglas
3 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.

5 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.

Cleopatra Ferrao
2 months ago

I have been a Nurse for 51 years and I really hate using scrubs.
Never used them and never will unless it is mandatory.
I always used regular clothes or a Uniform as deemed by the organization.
I hate seeing people in public flouting their scrubs!!

5 months ago


5 months ago

Scrubs in public…. ABSOLUTELY A NO!! No matter what you do or where you work any position that requires you to wear scrubs to work, do so because you are exposed to NASTY BIG BAD BUGS that attach to your clothes! When go out and about around town ie… to your local Bar/Restaurant, Walmart, grocery store or mall YOU ARE SPREADING THOSE NASTY BIG BAD BUGS!! If you are required to wear scrubs to do your JOB, you know better and YOU are a contributor to our SUPERBUGS!! Behave like you deserve the respect you are granted by Society!! NO… Read more »

Mary Lou
7 months 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 »

2 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
2 years ago

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

Charlie W
2 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
2 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.

2 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”.

Barbara Butler
2 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

2 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!

2 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!!!

Claudia Surovjak
2 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 »

Tamara King
2 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.

Ayanna Lowry
2 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.

3 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 »

3 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 »

Monique Burns
3 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 »

3 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.

Richard Grupen
4 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).

Pat M
4 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 »

Toni Hicks
4 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
4 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 »

4 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 »

Anne Matthews
4 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! ???

4 years ago

I think it all depends on what you do. I work in a DD facility, to me it’s like home with my kids. Plus, scrubs got me out of paying a speeding ticket in traffic court one day.

4 years ago

Interesting that nurses started wearing scrubs because they were easier to “clean”. The whole idea of the lab coat was to wear to work to keep uniform clean from the outside “germs”, then wear it home to keep your things and family safe. Now the lab coat is a prestige item that is worn daily and rarely washed which is even more dangerous to the hospital and self. Another unsafe object that nurses use is their stethoscope which they put around their neck all day then throw on the floor of their car and then use again the next day.… Read more »

Vevalyn York
4 years ago

Having been a nurse for 35 years, I don’t think we would have as much of a problem with super bugs if we still practiced the way I and many other nurses were taught in school. All patients were bathed everyday and their bed linens changed daily. At that time, gloves were not worn all the time so we washed our hands all the time. I remember seeing old movies where the nurses changed their clothes before leaving the hospital. Maybe if we still did some of these things (and doctors hadn’t over prescribed antibiotics), we wouldn’t have the super… Read more »

Vangie De Luna
4 years ago

I agree with the article 100%. However, anyone, besides nurses, can get a set of scrubs at Walmart, Kmart, etc. People buy scrubs for casual wear. I see hospital employees wearing their hospital scrubs (the shirt has the hospital’s name) to do mechanic work on their vehicles or take their child to a soccer game. Where’s the control??

4 years ago

I see people in scrubs at stores all the time. Most look like they are not healthcare professionals. People buy them at the dollar store and wear them as everyday clothes. How do you deal with that. And there are a lot of healthcare professionals who wear scrubs but are not in an area that is going to be “contaminating”. Surgery changes into scrubs when they get to work. Mental Health workers wear scrubs but don’t deal with the same level of “germs”.

Helen fiire
4 years ago

I ‘ve been a nurse 40 yrs was taught never wear scrubs,uniforms to stores or markets,unprofessional,if you can’t change cover with a lab coat.I bring a change of clothes with me.when I see scrubs I think,”wonder where they have been?”

Patricia Cather
5 years ago

I have always thought that scrubs in public is unprofessional. If you need to grocery shop, change at work or go home and change.

5 years ago

I agree with S. I worked at a hospital where I witnessed a nurse get body fluids on her scrubs during a code blue, she asked if the hospital had a set of scrubs she could borrow, they refused. She was told she should have had an extra set in her locker – our lockers barely fit a purse. A set of scrubs would have to be folded a dozen times to make fit, let alone what they would look like. Ann also makes a good point these super bugs are in the community, patients get sent home with MRSA… Read more »

5 years ago

I wear street clothes; where do I stand? I just go home and change.

5 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.

5 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?

5 years ago

I am a Home Health and Hospice nures. It is not practical for me to change even if I wanted to do so. Using good technique and providing known patients with MDRO kit are important. It is also important to remember that hospital patient with superbugs go home- they are everywhere in the community. It is not just healthcare worker who may be spreading superbugs!

Madeline Pinero
5 years ago

Not everyone who wears scrubs are exposed to super bugs. I wear scrubs to work everyday as I am in the imaging field but I work in a private practice where I’m not exposed to hospital germs. That doesn’t make me contagious and this article will make me and others like myself a target for those who are germophibic.

Jon Agee NP
5 years ago

I cringe, for all the reasons listed in the article. Further, it conveys the wrong impression. You look haggard, tired, scrubs wrinkled or evidently unclean at the end of 12-16 hr shift. The typical person who sees that on the street doesn’t think “Boy, she looks bad. Must of had a really bone cruncher day”. My guess would be is that most people think “Geez, she looks awful. It isn’t very professional. I hope that she is never my nurse.” While that takes some conjecture on my part, the typical person has no idea what we do. Thus, average Joe… Read more »

Eli Shayne
5 years ago

I believe that scrubs should stay in Hospital/clinics to prevent bacteria/germs from leaving. Also, when I return home I immediately take off my shoes and leave at door for same reason.

Eli Shayne
5 years ago

I believe scrubs should stay at the hospital/clinic so that bacteria/germs remain at said institution.