Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Laundering White Coats - We are asking the wrong question!

There is a very nice survey of bare-below-the-elbows perceptions and practice in this month's ICHE by co-blogger Mike's group. They asked 300 attendees (190 or 63% responded) at medical and surgical grand rounds about their beliefs and behavior concerning wearing white coats, neckties and wristwatches. I've posted the results below. As expected (since Mike has recommended BBE at his hospital since 2009), most thought that white coats were vectors and that not wearing a white coat would not alter patients' perceptions of them. Most did not wear white coats daily, neckties (males only) or wristwatches. Approximately half practiced the bare-below-the-elbows approach.

This all seems great except that it occurred to me that this group, and me and everyone else have asked the wrong questions as far as laundering practices of white coats. We've generally asked if the clinicians washed their coats daily, weekly, monthly, etc., when we should be asking them if they washed their white coats between patients! Asking about daily or monthly! laundering would be like asking about daily or monthly hand hygiene! Of course, this is ridiculous! I bet we could get hand hygiene compliance to 99% if the denominator was days instead of moments. By including a white coat laundering question with a lower bound of daily somehow implies that daily laundering is acceptable. Which it really isn't. Given that 96% of folks in this survey didn't wash their coats daily or every other day, this point is largely moot. Practically, we gotta give white coats the boot!


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