HealthDay News — Healthcare personnel should consider their clinical attire, such as white lab coats, carefully with regards to risk of transmitting infection, according to guidelines published in the February issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

Gonzalo Bearman, MD, MPH, from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, and colleagues evaluated the literature on healthcare personnel attire in terms of perceptions of professionalism, evidence of contamination and the risk of transmitting microorganisms. They also surveyed members of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America on current policies on healthcare personnel attire.

Clinical attire should be “bare above the elbows,” with short sleeves and no wristwatch, jewelry or ties, the guidelines recommend. For facilities that recommend or mandate white coats, at least two coats should be available and coats should be removed before contact with patients. Attire should be laundered frequently. Footwear should have closed toes, low heels, and non-skid soles.

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Shared medical equipment should be cleaned between patients, and any item coming into contact with the patient environment should be disinfected, replaced, or eliminated.

While patients preferred formal attire, this did not impact patient satisfaction and confidence, and they did not perceive the infection risk.

Should white coats be banned to reduce the risk of transmitting infection?

“Institutions considering these optional measures should introduce them with a well-organized communication and education effort directed at both healthcare professionals and patients,” Bearman and colleagues wrote.


  1. Bearman G et al. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2014. 35(2); doi:10.1086/675066.