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NY bill proposes banning white coats, ties for doctors

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There has been much discussion in recent years about doctors' clothing - specifically their neckties, white coats and wrist jewelry - and their possible role in transmitting germs. Concerns about physicians' attire spreading infection prompted hospitals in the United Kingdom to adopt a dress code banning such clothing and accessories in 2007. A similar policy was also considered by the American Medical Association.

Now a bill proposed in the New York Senate could result in physicians statewide having to remove neckties, jewelry, wristwatches and the iconic white coat from their workplace wardrobes.

As American Medical News reports, the legislation has sparked an interesting debate over whether or not changing doctors' attire will reduce infection rates:

A handful of hospitals have reportedly adopted dress codes as part of a bundle of quality interventions, but experts said there have been no randomized controlled trials to test whether avoiding long sleeves and neckties prevent infections.

Meanwhile, an April 6 Journal of Hospital Medicine study cast some doubt on the no-sleeves policy. Fifty physicians at Denver Health Medical Center were asked to wear their usual white coats, and 50 other doctors wore freshly cleaned short-sleeved scrubs. After an eight-hour shift, tests of the clothing found no difference in the extent of bacterial contamination.

"Even if you put the clean uniform on -- unless you're going to change your clothes every few hours -- there's no data to support that these dress code measures are really effective," said Marisha Burden, MD, lead author of the study and an internist and hospitalist at Denver Health.

Previously: Study finds docs' long-sleeved coats don't spread more bugs than bare arms
Photo by Kathy McGraw

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