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New Guidelines for Infection Control Could Be Controversial

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A new set of guidelines has just been issued, and it may prove just as contentious as guidelines (for preventing heart disease and treating blood pressure) that appeared at the end of 2013. These recommendations come from the infectious disease experts in the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), and they are aimed at keeping healthcare providers from spreading disease among patients, especially in the hospital.

In addition to scrupulous hand washing and room cleaning, the guidelines suggest that people providing inpatient care should wear short sleeves and no watches, jewelry or neckties. If white coats are used, they should be washed with hot water and bleach at least weekly. When interacting directly with patients, doctors should not wear their white coats. Equipment such as stethoscopes should be cleaned between patients. Research has shown that doctors' neckties and stethoscopes sometimes carry nasty bacteria such as drug resistant Staph aureus.

[Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, Jan. 21, 2014]

We discussed the huge toll taken by hospital-acquired infections in our book, Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.

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Do people actually think that anyone will follow those guidelines? Doctors and nurses sometimes don't bother to wash their hands between patients, or change their gloves if they are wearing them. I had one doctor who carried a tongue depressor in his pocket. Would take it out, look down a patients throat, then put the dirty depressor back in his pocket. Then go on to the next patient. I wouldn't let him put it in 'my' mouth.

Nothing here sounds controversial to me. It sounds like more trouble for providers but if we *know* those nasty germs can be spread on clothing, what's so controversial about minimizing that risk?

How about healthcare workers who wear their hospital scrubs to the grocery store?

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