Doctors’ long-sleeved coats don’t have more bacteria after all

I’m always wondering about the microbiological loads on aprons those food porn chefs wear on TV; or in their kitchens; or wherever else their food fantasies take them.

Someone else decided to take a look at the loads on those white lab-style coats doctors wear.

Some have feared that long-sleeved coats and other garments can spread MRSA and other nasty bacteria around the workplace, but a newly published randomized trial finds there’s no added risk.

The study, published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, was conducted by researchers from the University of Colorado. They randomly assigned 100 medical residents and hospitalists to wear either their own white coats or the kind of just-washed short-sleeve uniform thought to better prevent bacterial spread.

At eight hours into the work day, researchers took samples from breast pocket, sleeve cuff and skin of the wrist, then let them incubate. They found “no significant differences” between the bacterial colony counts from the coats and the uniforms — not on the sleeves (whether short or long) or pockets.

There was also no difference between the groups in the number of people carrying around the MRSA bacteria on their clothes or wrists.

No word on whether this will let physicians in the U.K. cover up again; the National Health Service banned long sleeves a few years ago.

In Toronto, Dr. Allison McGeer, director of infection control at Mount Sinai Hospital, said she found the study’s results to be "interesting and useful."

"I think there’s a lot of controversy about the extent to which we should be investing resources in having clothes that are not contaminated when it’s pretty clear that it’s not the clothes that make that much difference," she said, adding that hand hygiene and a number of other practice issues are more important.

"I don’t think this is enough evidence to say lab coats are not a problem. At the same time, honestly, I’m not that worried about lab coats. Not at the top of my list."

Doctors, nurses don’t want patients to bug them about handwashing

Consumers are increasingly viewed as the critical control point (CCP) for food and hygiene safety, and are increasingly required to tell others exactly what they think, such as, Dude, wash your hands, Dude, use a thermometer to make sure my burger is done, and Dude, get that finger out of your ear, you don’t know where that finger’s been (or where it’s going).

Dr. Yves Longtin of the Geneva University Hospital presented results of an online survey at the 50th Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in Boston. The 277 respondents — all randomly selected doctors and nurses — believed that patient collaboration could help prevent medical errors, two-thirds had "negative feelings" about such participation programs.

Forty-three percent said that they would "feel humiliated" if they had to admit poor hand hygiene habits. Another 30 percent of workers said they simply would not appreciate patient reminders. Some respondents (16 percent) felt that if patients were to get involved, accountability then would shift partially from the caregivers to those patients.

What’s more, more than one-third of respondents said they would refuse to wear badges encouraging patients to ask about hand washing habits.

"Respondents had a pretty high impression of their own perceived levels of hand hygiene," Longtin said. "However, most believed they could improve."

Vancouver Island doctors – 18 per cent wash their hands

It was awesome when the Canadian women won ice hockey gold at the winter Olympics in Vancouver earlier this year – or for my World Cup obsessed South American students, the what Olympics? – and OK when the Canadian men won gold, but I still say Vancouver is a dump of a town. Always has been.

A new study reported by the Vancouver Sun found that failed handwashing audits for health-care facilities within the Vancouver Island Health Authority produced "disappointing" and "unacceptable" results, according to the head of patient safety.

Doctors were the worst, with a compliance rate of 18 per cent (same percentage seen in other studies).

The health authority improved over last year’s scores of 15 per cent, but, considering the intensive handwashing campaign launched in the face of H1N1 influenza and the increasing number of outbreaks at various facilities, staff members need to do better, according to Dr. Martin Wale, executive medical director of quality and patient safety.