Scrubs in public: Do or don’t?

Creatas | Jupiterimages
Creatas | Jupiterimages

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?

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21 Responses to Scrubs in public: Do or don’t?

  1. Fyndy

    I’m sorry, but I’m too tired/hot/rushed to change out of my scrubs and into another set of clothes just to go home…. let alone carry a change of clothes with me…I go straight home and change if I want to go grocery shopping or to the mall….especially after work…that’s just gross and like you say, not healthy for other people.

  2. donyaC

    I work as a hospice home care nurse, the community IS my work place.

  3. Amber Haile

    When I see someone in public I assume they work in an office/clinic/vet office/ect
    Or heck, be a nursing student who lives in her scrubs cuz she’s always at school so she goes “out” (aka: off campus) for food and the scrubs are school uniform. But if they’re clinical scrubs or when I worked in the ER – it was straight home/garage/laundry room – strip/shower… Cuz you never know with the hospital and the last thing I need is sick littles 😉

  4. carolslee1949

    When I was still working, I’d stop by my drugstore or grocery store on the way home, until I had a run in with a customer in the drugstore. A young woman approached me and asked if I was a nurse. I replied that I was. She then proceeded to tell me that her grandmother’s arthritis was getting worse and could I suggest something that she could give her. I politely explained that I really couldn’t “suggest” even an over the counter medication and that perhaps she should take her grandmother to an urgent care clinic, as this was Saturday, or wait until Monday and contact her physician. She became irate, yelling at me, “What kind of nurse are you, anyway! You’re supposed to help people!” Fortunately, the pharmacy manager, who knew me, escorted the young woman over to the pharmacy to see if the pharmacist could help. After that, I either went home and changed or planned my shopping trips for my days off.

  5. Deb Moore-Liles

    As a veterinary technician and just had a 13 days stay in the hospital. Started with the flu and then pneumonia,step throat,c-diff ,MRSA . I had doctor & nurse not putting on their PPA and also ran out of mask at one point. I work at a university that we put on clean scrub & lab jacket if we go outside & put on clean when we go to surgery.Put on clean scrub if dirty. I work at a veterinary hospital they do a better job than a human hospital. The superbug should you not to wear your scrub outside of work.

    • rajearnah

      As a nurse in a busy hospital I know that none of those things you mentioned required a mask. look it up,google it. the gown and gloves are a different story. It is hard to get physicians to gown up. We have the infection control dept on us all the time on what to wear in every isolation room.

  6. EDRN57

    I think before you worry about wearing scurbs home from work that infect others you think about the public who goes to see their doctor and while scripts are being filled they get their shopping done. They are the ones that have the bugs. A good nurse knows what they were exposed to and if its safe to wear scrubs after work and be around others

  7. Jennifer Strayer

    It’s disqusting to wear your scrubs in public. Unless you’re going to work and they are clean. But don’t wear your shoes, in fact you should leave those at work anyway, you don’t want to drag around all the nastiness that we all know is on them!

  8. ssuper

    Speaking of scrubs and safety, WHY is the style of scrubs one that is so long of a pant that they drag all over the floor, through excretions from room to room, and wherever else the wearer goes? This is so obviously unsanitary!


    If nurse’s scrubs are so toxic that they can’t be worn in public, then why should we expect the nurse to launder them at home and risk exposing her/his family? Airtight bags just aren’t good enough when the nurse is expected to launder them in the same machine she uses for her children’s clothes. If the danger is this real, then hospitals have a duty to provide and launder scrubs for their staff. Until then, all complaints should be addressed to the hospital administration not to the bone tired nurse who is just trying to pick up a few things on the way home after a 12 hours shift.

  10. Danielle Abbott

    I am a psych nurse at a prison. We are limited to the size bag we can bring in for our shift and having to bring in a change of clothes every day would be unrealistic. We don’t have lockers so we can’t keep anything there so we are wearing our scrubs and shoes home. There are times were I need to stop by the store to just grab milk or something and I am not going to stop home to shower and change and then leave again. Once I get home I’m staying home. I have a separate laundry basket for my work clothes and I wash them separately as well. When I do major shopping or I’m going out I don’t wear my scrubs but I also plan those activities on my days off.

  11. Paula Jeff Walters

    I do in home care and the public is my work place. On a funnier side ( I am happily married) but have heard some the worst and best pick up lines wearing scrubs. Men flirt with me a lot more

  12. Ffeli78

    I work in a cvicu. We go through great lengths not to accept pts with infections due to the ohs pts in the unit. This means not accepting people with utis, with an elevated wbc, or pts who report they were recently sick. If we must take a pt with an infection, they are placed on the opposite end of the unit and the nurse taking care isn’t allowed to mingle with the other pts or nurses in the unit. We clean all our rooms with bleach, then with intense uv light. Our pts are cleansed with HCG every morning and if they are going for ohs, they receive 2 triseptin baths. We have had a 0% occurance of cautis, clabsis, etc. I feel relatively safe wearing my scrubs out in public after work.

  13. Clee

    I live in a rural area. I drive 45 minutes to where I work. Sometimes I remember a change of clothes & other times I don’t. Sometimes I don’t have a change of clothes but get the call from one of my kids, “I have to have this tomorrow! ” My youngest did gymnastics & began getting “boils” on her body- face, arms, legs, etc. They were MRSA. When she stopped going, they stopped popping up. MRSA is everywhere.

  14. ali4783

    There are plenty of health care workers who dont wear a uniform. The hospital i work at doesnt have a compulsory uniform. If proper infection control and ppe is followed; such as gowning up to provide cares to pts with mrsa ect, the risk of contaminating your uniform should be low

  15. katje1865

    When did hospital scrubs become a fashion statement? While visiting Boston’s hospital district and taking public transport, there were SO many people in scrubs, some with the accessory of a stethescope. I’ve been a nurse for 33 years, outside the USA. ( I trained in USA). We go to work in our clothing and we change into our uniforms when we get there. We never wear shoes from outside inside the unit or department. The hospitals supply uniforms for every single employee regardless of department, and the uniforms are launderd by the hospital. There’s always the accommodation to shower after our work, and we often do. (on the burn unit we shower and dress anew after every patient we care for). We never see nurses in uniforms outside the perimeter of the hospital. How have infectious disease clinicians not brought an end to wearing uniforms outside of work all over the USA? I mean it…I shudder when I see a maroon scrub suit in the Stop ‘n Shop. My sister was very ill in a Boston hospital. Nurses were of high caliber, masters levels specialists…who put laundry on the floor, or picked it up and let it touch all over their scrubs…the same scrubs they would wear home. We’ll never know if my sis could have pulled through (she had youth on her side) because the last insult was MRSA. MRSA in the ICU. Apparently the docs didn’t find that unacceptable. I sure did. We had MRSA in the burn unit where I worked…which shut down completely. Patients were sent to other burn centers in country, and 4 went to burn centers in neighboring countries.. The unit shut. Hundreds of cultures done and everything cleaned. Sources were found…one IVAC pump and one cardiac monitor. The unit opened after 6 days. One of my sister’s doctors said, “….you could close your unit because you have socialised medicine. If we don’t keep our beds full, we don’t receive any revenue…” ahhhhh.

  16. James P

    I’m sorry, but anyone who wears scrubs out in public after working a shift needs a refresher in microbiology. You NEVER know what you’ve picked up. I find it disgusting.

  17. beccabliss

    No one has ever said a word to me. I get only respect and thanks when they see I’m a nurse.

  18. C.Reposa1

    I’ve been a nurse for 5yrs now. Worked hospice, home health, sub-acute and LTC. No we don’t have facilities in any of those fields to provide scrubs for us much less launder, wash, clean, and dry our scrubs! So yes I do it myself! I go to the grocery store, Dr. office and do day to day life in them. I buy, wear, and live over half of my life in my scrubs. That doesn’t mean I don’t take care of them and my nursing shoes (which are about 100 dollars a pair). So does it make me a bad nurse? NOPE. I make my own life and do infection control in my own home. I make sure I put on my ppe and cleanse my scrubs thoroughly before I am ever in any contact with a patient.

  19. beeniee

    if you worry about what is on scrubs how about on visitors clothes / shoes ect …………………. most nurses wear their PPE and wash appropriately – visitor mostly don’t – and will ofter see a different patients in same visit

  20. Nurse2011

    Unfortunately, sometimes you have no choice but to be in your scrubs. If you work as a home health nurse you will be seen out in the community in scrubs all time. I practically live in scrubs. For myself and alot of my co-workers we take precautions. Example always an extra pair of scrubs with you, wearing PPE, Lysol wipes, etc. Generally speaking if you have been elbow deep in “yuck” you want to go home and shower before being around anyone!! Most of the nurses I know want to get out of the scrubs they’ve been wearing for the last 12-16+ hours ASAP traveling home, striping at the door and a hot shower. Of course there’s always a risk of transmitting germs but probably not anymore so than the bathroom door handle, shipping cart etc.. wash your hands.