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Healthcare Personnel Attire in Non-Operating-Room Settings

  • Gonzalo Bearman (a1), Kristina Bryant (a2), Surbhi Leekha (a3), Jeanmarie Mayer (a4), L. Silvia Munoz-Price (a5), Rekha Murthy (a6), Tara Palmore (a7), Mark E. Rupp (a8) and Joshua White (a9)...

Healthcare personnel (HCP) attire is an aspect of the medical profession steeped in culture and tradition. The role of attire in cross-transmission remains poorly established, and until more definitive information exists priority should be placed on evidence-based measures to prevent healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). This article aims to provide general guidance to the medical community regarding HCP attire outside the operating room. In addition to the initial guidance statement, the article has 3 major components: (1) a review and interpretation of the medical literature regarding (a) perceptions of HCP attire (from both HCP and patients) and (b) evidence for contamination of attire and its potential contribution to cross-transmission; (2) a review of hospital policies related to HCP attire, as submitted by members of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) Guidelines Committee; and (3) a survey of SHEA and SHEA Research Network members that assessed both institutional HCP attire policies and perceptions of HCP attire in the cross-transmission of pathogens. Recommendations for HCP attire should attempt to balance professional appearance, comfort, and practicality with the potential role of apparel in the cross-transmission of pathogens. Although the optimal choice of HCP attire for inpatient care remains undefined, we provide recommendations on the use of white coats, neckties, footwear, the bare-below-the-elbows strategy, and laundering. Institutions considering these optional measures should introduce them with a well-organized communication and education effort directed at both HCP and patients. Appropriately designed studies are needed to better define the relationship between HCP attire and HAIs.

Corresponding author
Virginia Commonwealth University, Internal Medicine, Richmond, VA 23298 (gbearman
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