Physician white lab coats worn in the hospital are frequently contaminated with harmful bacteria. The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) examined this problem and issued recommendations for hospitals in non-operating room areas. Although believed to enhance professional appearance and despite its historical role in American medicine, as physicians go from patient to patient, the white lab coat transmits bacteria from patient to patient unless careful and rigorous steps are taken to prevent this. Especially in the hospital, there is a real danger of cross-contamination with drug resistant strains of bacteria, such as methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin resistant enterococcus (VRE) and other multi-drug resistant organisms.
Hunterdon Medical Center, a smaller 178 bed community hospital in central New Jersey, is beating the MRSA bacteria that cause some of the most deadly and costly infections in hospitalized patients, as recently reported in the Wall Street Journal. The hospital uses an Infection Prevention Program that has reduced the frequency of Clostridium Difficile (C. Diff.) infections by 79% and Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) by 66%. These infections are largely responsible for much of the $33 billion cost associated with preventable infections in hospitalized patients. Currently, 1 in 20 patients admitted to hospitals gets a potentially deadly infection.