Debate rages at ID Week over physicians going 'bare below the elbows' to prevent infections

A lively debate broke out during a session at ID Week 2015 in San Diego earlier this week about the role of long sleeves, neckties, wristwatches and similar items in the transmission of infections, according to a report from MD Magazine.

According to the report, the practice of requiring physicians to wear short-sleeve scrubs and go "bare below the elbows" was adopted in the United Kingdom in 2008, but has yet to catch on in the U.S.

Michael Edmond, MD, of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, argued that lab coats — particularly polyester coats — are laundered infrequently, despite getting dirty and contaminated with microbes. For that reason, Dr. Edmond said the University of Iowa Hospitals will be going "bare below the elbows" starting Jan. 1, 2016, according to the report.

Neil Fishman, MD, of Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, on the other hand, argued there is no evidence that going "bare below the elbows" is effective and that baring forearms that are hairy, feature tattoos or reveal a physician's plaque psoriasis can be unprofessional or hazardous.

A straw poll at the end of the debate revealed the audience members sided against going "bare below the elbows," with a vote of 58 percent against to 42 percent for.

To read more about the speaker's presentations during the ID Week debate, click here.



More articles on infection prevention:
What tops nurses' rank of most important, most frequently missed infection prevention practices?
Healthcare workers frequently contaminate themselves when taking off gloves, gowns
Antibiotic stewardship program reduces C. diff infections in hospitalized kids

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