Are scrubs only for the operating room, or are they appropriate for everyday use? Should they be worn to the supermarket or a school board meeting? A recent discussion on Medscape’s Physician Connect (MPC), an all-physician discussion group, brought out some strong opinions on where scrubs are appropriate and where they are not — and on what motivates those who wear them in public.
An emergency medicine doctor kicked things off with an eloquent rant: “Is it just me, or is anyone else upset seeing staff wearing scrubs to go shopping? Yesterday, I saw a woman at the supermarket wearing scrubs and her white lab coat on top. Won’t this behavior give the public the impression that scrubs aren’t clean, but just a fashion statement?”
Many colleagues agreed: “I think the issue is status. You look cool and medical in scrubs,” wrote a disparaging general practitioner (GP).
“Some people seem to like the attention that wearing them in public brings: I guess because wearing your stethoscope around your neck is just a bit too obvious?” added another GP.
A third GP continued in this vein: “Are you really so, so busy that you didn’t have time to change into street clothes? Really? You couldn’t spare that 3 minutes? Most of the time it’s a desire to be recognized as a medical professional of some sort. Pretty pathetic in my opinion.”
However, some who regularly shop in scrubs, particularly emergency medicine doctors, pushed back. One wrote: “This is ridiculous. I work my butt off. I put on scrubs when I go to work and take them off when I go home. I live 40 miles away “in the middle of nowhere,” as my wife likes to say. When I’m coming home, I call her to see if she needs anything — if so, I stop and buy it.”
“Wearing scrubs to go shopping is attention-seeking behavior. However, swinging into the grocery store or popping into a store to get some specific thing that you need after having been at work and, oh by the way, wearing scrubs is just practicality,” wrote another emergency medicine doctor.
A third emergency medicine doctor continued this defiant tone, and even expanded the field of acceptable venues for scrubs: “Get a life. I’ve been to all my kids’ programs in scrubs, and because I’m on the school board, I go to the meetings in scrubs before doing my night shifts.”
A GP quickly responded: “Alternatively, you could wear jeans and a T-shirt to work, change into scrubs at the hospital, and change back at the end of your shift. Then you don’t look like a boob wearing scrubs at a school board meeting. Do the firemen on the board wear their firefighting outfits? Do the farmers wear boots covered in mud? Take an extra 5 minutes a day and just wear scrubs in the hospital, where they belong.”
Another GP broke it down even further: “If urgent care is so messy that you need to wear scrubs, you should be changing out of them before you go anywhere else. If not, you might as well dress like the rest of us doing outpatient care.”
However, an emergency medicine doctor fired back: “If I crack a chest and get bloody at work, I change — otherwise, live with it.”
“I am not about to go home, change into street clothes, and go back to town to grocery shop. I’m also not going to drag a change of clothes with me to the hospital on the off chance that that shift happens to be on the slow side and I get a chance to make a grocery list,” argued another emergency medicine doctor.
A disapproving surgeon, noting the spread of this trend, wrote: “I was once attending my Congressman’s birthday party, which was nothing more than a fundraiser. Most were wearing coat and tie, with quite a few in business attire. Next thing I know here comes a local gastroenterologist wearing scrubs. It looked ridiculous.”
A pediatrician went further still: “Wearing hospital scrubs away from the hospital is theft.”
An ophthalmologist tried to find some middle ground: “I don’t go shopping while wearing scrubs, but I have pumped gas on my way home from work with them on.”
A mildly conflicted surgeon added: “I understand that I probably make others in the grocery store upset, but they’re so comfy and clean that I don’t feel too bad about it.”
Fifty-one percent of those responding to an accompanying poll objected to wearing scrubs outside the hospital. Fewer than 14% claimed that it was not a big deal, whereas a few crafted their own responses, such as a vote for limiting the practice to Halloween.
Finally, one physician raised a startling possibility: that not all of those wearing scrubs in public may be medical professionals. What if the primary offenders are dressing not for the time crunch of a tough job, but for the demands of fashion? “Scrubs are becoming popular as casual wear, and they are really inexpensive,” wrote the physician, who even linked to a site where anyone can easily buy a variety of official-looking hospital scrubs.
The full discussion of this topic is available at: http://boards.medscape.com/forums/.2a0a8300. Note, this is open to physicians only.