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Is It Just Me?

Or does anybody else find it disturbing that nurses commute to work on public transit in their nursing uniforms? I mean, isn’t the whole point of the uniform that whole sterility thing? Otherwise, why not just let them wear jeans?

Yet almost on a daily basis I’ll see people commuting into work already geared up for a day helping the sick (an occupation I commend). But considering nurses seem to have more frequent contact with patients than actual doctors, I’m surprised they are allowed to wear their uniforms while they take the bus and subway.


  1. Comment by Jodie on March 16, 2010 12:43 pm

    The scrubs most nurses wear are not sterile. For nurses who work in say, a surgical unit, burn unit or in obstetrics (for c-sections), they’ll have sterile scrubs that are only worn in designated places and are provided by the hospital, and are never worn outside of those designated areas. Sometimes in maternity, hospitals won’t allow nurses to wear their scrubs outside of the hospital, even if they’re not sterile, for cleanliness reasons, since newborns don’t have much of an immune system. IF you’re someone who’s immune system is so compromised that you can’t be around non-sterile anything, those nurses will also wear sterile scrubs (or disposable sterile ones) specifically when taking care of you. Otherwise, scrubs are just part of the required uniform, meant to signal “hey, I’m a nurse.” There are some hospital units that allow nurses to wear “casual professional attire,” but when you’re working around all the gunk in hospitals, most people don’t really want to ruin their clothes. Plus, scrubs are just comfortable, even if not terribly fashionable. (Hopefully any nurse you see on the way home on the T changed her scrubs if she got puked on that day).

  2. Comment by Curious on March 16, 2010 12:55 pm

    Is it just nurses wearing scrubs outside of work that concern you? It doesn’t bother you when Drs and technicians do so too?

  3. Comment by snarl on March 16, 2010 1:00 pm

    Funny you should ask, Curious.

    I actually asked that very question to somebody a few years ago. He was an operating room nurse at Mass General. He said that doctors and surgeons (and operating room nurses) do not wear scrubs outside the hospital, but that it’s acceptable for other nurses to do so (such as the ones who make the rounds if you’re inpatient).

    It’s those that would concern me if my immune system was already compromised and I was in a hospital.

  4. Comment by OTC on March 16, 2010 1:29 pm

    I remember reading an article years ago about doctor’s neckties being horribly contaminated with all sorts of things.

    Makes sense, when was the last time you washed a necktie, even when I wore them everyday it was a rare time that I sent them to be cleaned.

    Now I wear them so infrequently that I assume the months between wearings kills off anything.

  5. Comment by Curious on March 16, 2010 3:49 pm

    I can’t speak for Mass General, but there are lots of doctors dressed in scrubs wandering around outside hospitals in the Longwood Medical area (Beth Israel Deaconess, Brighams, Childrens, Dana Farber, Joslin Diabetes). You can tell they’re drs by the “MD” on their badges.

  6. Comment by DA on March 16, 2010 4:04 pm

    It’s just you. And other people that don’t understand diseases, contamination and medicine.

  7. Comment by snarl on March 16, 2010 4:08 pm

    Well, that’s why I’m not a doctor. So educate me. Tell me about diseases, contamination, and medicine.

  8. Comment by DA on March 16, 2010 4:43 pm

    Fair enough. Scrubs aren’t to keep you healthy. They are to keep your nasty blood, puss, urine, leaky cysts, etc off my clothes. They are cheap, easy to clean and when a patient squirts juices on them you can change into another pair quickly.

  9. Comment by snarl on March 16, 2010 4:49 pm

    Thank you for the explanation (and link).

    For that, I promise never to leak nasty blood, puss, urine, or leaky cysts on your clothes.

  10. Comment by Golden on March 16, 2010 5:02 pm

    Many hospitals also provide scrubs for MDs on call, or have shifts, but not for the nurses. They need to provide their own. Have you ever noticed that the docs usually all have on the same kind/color and the nurses are all festive and colorful? This is why.

  11. Comment by Jeffrey on March 16, 2010 5:24 pm

    Scrubs usually say “hey, I’m a nurse.”, but they can also say “hey, I just escaped from an institution”, or “hey, I’m homeless, and this is all I could find to wear in the hospital dumpster.” And my personal favorite, “hey, I hooked up with a nurse last night, and am doing a walk of shame” Fortunately for us, the only thing these people are usually nursing is a hangover.

  12. Comment by Boliath on March 16, 2010 7:16 pm

    It’s not what they might infect patients with that bothers me, it’s what patients have given them – see nasty blood, puss, urine, or leaky cysts above – that they’re bringing with them on their scrubs and sitting next to me on the bus or T.

  13. Comment by BosGuy on March 16, 2010 9:18 pm

    I never actually thought about it. Now you’ve just fed my germ phobia.. One more thing to be neurotic about. How did people live to such a ripe old age back in the day?

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