Can changes in clinical attire reduce likelihood of cross-infection without jeopardising the doctor-patient relationship?

J Hosp Infect. 2010 Jan;74(1):22-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2009.07.031. Epub 2009 Nov 14.


Research has shown that healthcare workers' clothes can become contaminated with pathogens. This study aimed to determine whether hospital doctors can change their attire to reduce the possibility of cross-infection without jeopardising the doctor-patient relationship. In this experimental repeated-measures study, 55 male and 45 female inpatients (mean age: 52.89 years) were randomly selected. Participants were shown photographs of medical dresscodes and asked to rate their appropriateness on a 5-point Likert scale. They were then read a standardised statement regarding the significance of attire to cross-infection and the exercise was repeated. Pre statement, there was no significant difference between the majority of dress options, though casual dress (male and female) and short-sleeved top (female) were considered significantly less appropriate. Post statement, surgical 'scrubs' and short-sleeved top/shirt were deemed most appropriate (P<0.0001). There was no significant difference between short-sleeved shirt and scrubs for males. For females, scrubs were preferred (P=0.0005). Participants expressed no significant preference for medical attire, with the exception of a dislike of casual dress. However, once informed of the significance of attire to cross-infection, preference changes to favour dresscodes which may minimise infection risk.

MeSH terms

  • Clothing / psychology*
  • Clothing / standards*
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infection Control / methods*
  • Inpatients
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician-Patient Relations*