Should Nurses Wear Scrubs in Public?

It’s not uncommon to see nurses in scrubs at the local grocery store waiting in line to buy lunch. But is it really appropriate for scrubs to be worn outside of a hospital setting? While the answer is a matter of opinion (although most doctors will say that it’s not okay), understanding the purpose of scrubs can help you formulate your own opinion.

4 Reasons Nurses Wear Scrubs

Scrubs were originally designed for surgeons and operating room personnel for the purpose of sterilization. Today, virtually all hospital and health care workers must wear scrubs. In fact, scrubs have become a symbol for people in patient care at hospitals and clinics.

Here’s why today’s nurses wear scrubs:

1. Protection

Scrubs are typically made with thicker material, which provides extra protection for a nurse’s clothing and skin. The thicker material also makes it harder for germs and other contaminants to pass through the clothing.

Women’s and men’s scrub sets provide full-body protection and can help prevent the spread of germs.

2. Identification of Contaminants

Scrubs make it easy for nurses and other healthcare personnel to identify contaminants and bodily fluids, like vomit, stool, blood, urine and other chemicals.

Depending on the facility, nurses may be required to wear solid colored scrubs for better identification.

3. Uniform

Scrubs also serve as a type of uniform, which makes it easy for staff, patients and visitors to identify nurses.

At some hospitals and clinics, scrubs of different colors are assigned to each role for quick and easy identification.

4. Durable

Scrubs are highly durable and made to withstand the harsh cleaning chemicals used in some healthcare settings.

Should Nurses Wear Scrubs in Public?

Generally speaking, doctors and other nurses will tell you that it’s never a good idea to wear your scrubs in a public setting.

If a nurse is working with a highly contagious patient or needs to work in a sterile environment, wearing scrubs in public is a big no-no. For one thing, you risk the spreading of germs and bacteria. You also risk contaminating patients by bringing germs from public places back to a sterile environment.

One Connecticut hospital conducted a study and found that healthcare personnel who entered a room with a MRSA patient ended up with the pathogen on their clothing 70% of the time. Contaminated scrubs may spread germs. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Leave the scrubs at work, and change before leaving the building.

Many in the medical field consider it to be irresponsible to wear scrubs outside of a hospital or clinic.

It’s never okay to wear dirty scrubs in public, as there’s a greater risk of spreading germs.

If a nurse is just grabbing a bite to eat or a cup of coffee before work, it may be acceptable to wear scrubs. But if that person will need to be working in a sterile environment, he or she may need to change into a new set of scrubs upon entering the hospital or clinic.