Published 01.22.23

3 Scary Truths About Scrubs

Medical scrubs may seem simple, but they’re actually pretty complicated. Learn three scary truths about the healthcare staple you may not know.
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For such simple garments, scrubs are surprisingly complex. Aside from being hygienically clean, they also need to be comfortable, professional in appearance and functional to meet the demands of healthcare teams on the front lines caring for patients. With so much at stake, it’s no wonder scrubs can be a major obstacle to both the bottom line and a positive patient experience. The reason? It comes down to three scary truths:

1. Scrubs can carry germs

It’s generally not about the garments themselves, but the hygienic practices surrounding them. Healthcare workers who don’t change out of their scrubs before leaving the hospital risk exposing others to the germs they carry on their garments. At the end of their shift, staff members might also store scrubs in their lockers or leave them lying out in the open, where they can collect germs that can be passed on to others. And while common, these habits can lead to contamination—both inside and outside the hospital.

There’s also strong evidence that corroborates washing scrubs at home isn’t as effective as experts once thought. Studies have found that home washing, while effective at getting rid of dirt, isn’t nearly as good at eliminating bacteria.

In fact:

  • One study found fungi on 93% and coliform bacteria on 44% of scrubs washed at home, compared to scrubs washed at the hospital.
  • Another study found that bacteria, including MRSA (an infection that’s resistant to several antibiotics), were present on seven out of 10 nurses’ scrubs 48 hours after their shifts ended.

That’s a hard pill to swallow when you consider that each day in the United States, one in 31 hospital patients contracts an infection while receiving treatment for something else. These infections don’t just mean potentially devastating health effects for the patient, but billions of dollars in potential extra costs for the healthcare system, too.

And, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, infection control has never been more scrutinized.

2. Scrubs can affect patient perception

If scrubs are the uniform of healthcare providers, it makes sense that the way they look can affect the way patients perceive the level of care they’ll receive. Just think about the pandemic and how often we saw billboards and commercials showcasing our healthcare heroes. These frontline workers very quickly become a symbol of hope and healing.

As the American College of Surgeons said when it updated its operating room attire guidelines in 2016: “Appropriate attire is a reflection of professionalism and is integral to establishing and maintaining a patient-physician rapport based on trust and respect.”

Similarly, scrubs that are in poor condition — showing a lot of wear and tear, for example — can negatively impact patient perception. Indeed, patient satisfaction surveys show that patients link professional status and quality care to uniform style and color.

3. Scrubs are an inventory nightmare

It’s common for healthcare workers to stash scrubs in their lockers because it’s the only set they’ve found that fits them. Or because there’s a shortage in the hospital, and they’re concerned scrubs won’t be available when they need them.

If there isn’t a hospital program in place to solve for sizing and availability issues, scrubs can become a major headache. Not just for healthcare workers and administrators, but also for patients, who may face a delayed procedure simply because their surgeon can’t find scrubs in the right size.

Plus, growth in healthcare-related jobs is exploding right now, with the number of positions expected to increase by 13% from 2021 to 2031 in the United States. That’s about 2 million new jobs, and a growth rate that’s “much faster than the average for all occupations.”

That’s going to mean an increasing demand for scrubs—not to mention a lot more sanitizing of scrubs, which is a labor-intensive process when done correctly.

With many healthcare systems already reporting being overwhelmed by out-of-control uniform programs (or the lack of one), the last thing they need is more hassle. Caregivers should be spending time delivering quality patient care, not dealing with uniform issues.

A solution for scrubs

With concerns around cleanliness, patient perception and inventory control, many hospital systems are adopting policies to address the cleaning and handling of these essential garments.

One of the solutions many hospitals are currently using are Scrub Dispensing Machines. Designed to help promote infection control, the dispensers provide convenient and hassle-free access to clean, premium scrubs in your facility—and designated return units for disposal of dirty ones. It also maximizes efficiency by requiring no upfront costs or oversight on your end.

An added bonus, to help meet AORN recommended guidelines for surgical attire, scrubs should be hygienically cleaned and then individually polybagged before they arrive on a covered cart at the hospital. Plus, the scrubs are inspected after each wash for needed repairs or replacements, and detailed reporting ensures you never run out.

From beginning to end, the Cintas Scrub Dispensing Program is a comprehensive service that your entire team can count on. That means cleanliness, quality and inventory are all managed by the supplier, not by you, so your concerns are put to rest – and your team looks and feels their best.

Learn about the Cintas Scrub Dispensing Solution at