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Monday, May 7, 2007

Scrub those scrubs!: A professional appearance with little fuss

Scrubs, of course, are those distinctive, simple, usually blue, shirts and pants that doctors and nurses wear while in the operating room.

Wearing scrubs became a badge of the profession, like wearing a white coat or carrying a stethoscope. Since then, it has become a fashion statement to wear scrubs outside, e.g., while shopping in the supermarket. Now it connotes high tech, medical science, good health, saving lives, and looking like "Dr. Meredith Grey" or "Dr. Preston Burke."

Scrubs are characteristically of cotton. Now there are also scrubs made of blends of polyester and cotton to maintain "a wrinkle-free professional looking appearance with little fuss."

They’ve become their opposite. I hung out on Longwood Avenue in Boston, near several Harvard teaching hospitals, with two Australian friends, as they laughed uncontrollably every time they’d see a doctor or nurse on the street in their scrubs. Then I got it: An urban street is far from sterile. If scrubs mean, "We’re taking special care to be sterile," then why are clinicians wearing them on the street? Just because it’s easy, to look cool, and announce their status (and announce they’re not keeping them sterile)? Will they wear the same scrubs in the O.R.?

Do you get the joke? -And did you realize the joke’s on us?

Advice: If you see your doctor or nurse on the street in scrubs, smile, but don’t laugh. And buy some for yourself—they really are comfortable, and look cool.

Read a patient safety joke.

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