This study has demonstrated that the white coats of medical students are more likely to be bacteriologically contaminated at points of frequent contact, such as the sleeve and pocket. The organisms identified were principally skin commensals including Staphylococcus aureus. The cleanliness of the coat as perceived by the student was correlated with bacteriological contamination, yet despite this, a significant proportion of students only laundered their coats occassionally. This study supports the view that the students' white coat is a potential source of cross infection on the ward and its design should be modified in order to facilitate hand washing. Hospitals training medical students should consider taking on the burden of providing freshly laundered white coats for the students.
Copyright 2000 The Hospital Infection Society.