What Nurses REALLY Think About Scrubs In Public

Let's just say our Scrubs In Public article caught a lot of your attention. With some hospitals taking action that requires staffers to change out of their scrubs before they leave the building as well as offering free scrubs laundry services to prevent the spread of superbugs to people outside the facility, we were curious what the ModernNurse reader thought about this issue. You all did not disappoint! Our comments section is full of wide-ranging thoughts and opinions on wearing your scrubs in public. Check out the varying opinions below and don't forget to add your own thoughts in the comments section.

Bugs are everywhere 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.
Patricia

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.
Charlie W

Oh well guilty 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 until it doesn't. 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 judgment is a given.
Janet M.

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.
Lily

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”.
Kadishea

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!!!
Keniki

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 controversy with management. They claimed I was bringing germs from my house into the OR environment. Let me tell you my house is a lot cleaner than their OR!
Claudia

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.
Ayanna L

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 costs…..I contacted a local TV reporter, a friend of mine at the time, and a big story on the news about nurses bringing germs home to their families, allowed the hospital to continue providing scrubs to the ER staff for the time being!
Annie

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 there. I was also told I would colonize it the rest of my life. Fast forward to today I was tested this summer because I was going to be hospitalized after minor back surgery the screen of my nasal swab was negative. My point there are bacteria every where some good some bad and if we have a healthy immune system we will be fine. Please people stop being so germaphobic and stay healthy so your immune system stays healthy. Also realize we can’t be responsible for everyone who gets sick in our community.
FNP

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 mind.
Monique

I can’t even really see it if you work in a hospital. Where in the heck do we think these infected people were before they were hospitalized??? In our schools, grocery stores, doctor’s offices, post offices … just everywhere. The germs are already out there, folks. As FNP said… they are everywhere. I, for one, hate to see the extremes germaphobic people go to in order to feel safe – it borders on obsessive behavior. If scrubs have visible stool or blood on them… yeah, don’t go to the store. But otherwise – we’re not carrying anything new out there. It is already on the last can of tomatoes someone else picked up…
LK

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.
Gail

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.
LB

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.
Richard

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 a child next to the scrubs! Let’s keep the scrubs in the hospital and have the facility do the laundry!
Pat

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 measure. I am not dealing with infectious patients anymore and my clothes are as clean as if I wore scrubs in my car to drive to my patients’ homes. I wash my hands, wear gloves, and otherwise use the techniques all nurses should use to keep my patients and myself healthy.
Toni

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 and rubbed my scrubs and I have not witnessed anyone rubbing or licking their seat before they sat down.
Lorey

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.
Precious

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. What happened to wash hands, wash hands, wash hands? What about the ink pen you keep in your pocket and pull out with your gloved hand to write something down in the patient room then put back in you pocket then later your purse/pocket and then go home. Anyway I don’t think there is a real answer but those who think they are not contaminated in some way (such as radiologist, PT, respiratory, nurses, doctors) just do not understand the problem. Most people don’t even know if you are a nurse or not because everyone does wear scrubs. Don’t worry about what people think of you but what you are doing to stop the spread of the “germs”. A nurse must protect the public as well as the patient and their own families and self.
Liz

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 bug problem today.
Vevalyn

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??
Vangie

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”.
Susan

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

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.
Jacqueline

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!
Ann

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

Your turn! What do you think? 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? Share in the comments section below.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. It’s a fashion statement nowadays,as long as I don’t wear it outside the work place! Sometimes come to think of it; it’s an invitation for trouble: people love those uniform if people want to steal from you there you go It’s $ sign.Bingo!

  2. I have been an OR Nurse for 40 years and wouldn’t be caught dead wearing my scrubs in public. I realize all the concern about superbugs in the community but I for one will do my part to make sure what happens in the OR stays in the OR. We owe it to our patients, family and friends and the community at large.

  3. What does the informed public have to say about Nurses and other Health Care Providers wearing scrubs in public?

  4. There are many different categories of health care professionals and I do not see a problem with wearing scrubs in public unless they are soiled with blood, feces or other body fluids. Germs are every where and not every one washes their hands! So I feel my scrubs are no more a contamination risk to the public than the door handle to enter a building, than an elevator button or that apple at the market that looks so yummy!!

  5. Nurses should not wear their work clothes …scrubs or otherwise….out in the world. WHen you help a patient up in bed, etc. you get covered with his bugs….which may or may not be bad. My mother was a very sweet. clean nice old lady who got MERSA while a patient in rehab. Certainly she did not look like a MERSA patient but could certainly spread it to scrubs.
    This is not a new concept. When I was in nursing school over 50 yrs ago, we were forbidden to go to anywhere before changing out of our work clothes…. not even a quick trip to the grocery store. There were fewer cases of cross contamination then….probably because we were all so careful!

  6. I come from the age of white, starched uniforms, white hose and shoes and caps. My career lasted 50 years and I functioned in may specialties.I would venture an hypothesis that the problems with hospital acquired infections became a problem when use of gloves, industrial cleaners, rather than Clorox and overuse of antibiotics became the norm. When people, not just nurses, don gloves, they feel free to touch anything and everything in the room plus their faces and forgo hand washing, because, after all, they were wearing gloves. In ancient times, we were well versed in proper hand washing and performed it often. We were sticklers for sterile technique. I doubt that wearing scrubs home is the cause of the Super Bugs, but it seems common sense that keeping uniforms as appropriate dress in hospitals and not wearing them outside, even on lunch break, would reduce the number of germs carried into the hospital. While I think scrubs are probably comfortable and allow for all the bending and climbing around to care for immobile patients, it also makes one careless about where they are worn, as they look more like pajamas. The starchy whites made it difficult to do those things, but we took more care to keep them clean and unwrinkled. Starchy whites added an aire of professionalism, as well.

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