Newly cleaned physician uniforms and infrequently washed white coats have similar rates of bacterial contamination after an 8-hour workday: A randomized controlled trial


  • #NCT01192841.

  • Disclosure: Nothing to report.



Governmental agencies in the United Kingdom and Scotland have recently instituted guidelines banning physicians' white coats and the wearing of long-sleeved garments to decrease nosocomial transmission of bacteria.


Our aim was to compare the degree of bacterial and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus contamination of physicians' white coats with that of newly laundered, standardized short-sleeved uniforms after an 8-hour workday and to determine the rate at which bacterial contamination of the uniform ensued.


The design was a prospective, randomized controlled trial.


The setting was a university-affiliated public safety-net hospital.


One hundred residents and hospitalists on an internal medicine service participated.


Subjects wore either a physician's white coat or a newly laundered short-sleeved uniform.


Bacterial colony count and the frequency with which methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus was cultured from both garments over time were measured.


No statistically significant differences were found in bacterial or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus contamination of physicians' white coats compared with newly laundered short-sleeved uniforms or in contamination of the skin at the wrists of physicians wearing either garment. Colony counts of newly laundered uniforms were essentially zero, but after 3 hours of wear they were nearly 50% of those counted at 8 hours.


Bacterial contamination occurs within hours after donning newly laundered short-sleeved uniforms. After 8 hours of wear, no difference was observed in the degree of contamination of uniforms versus infrequently laundered white coats. Our data do not support discarding long-sleeved white coats for short-sleeved uniforms that are changed on a daily basis. Journal of Hospital Medicine 2011. © 2011 Society of Hospital Medicine.