NY Mulls Physician 'Dress Code Council' Bill

Cheryl Clark, May 25, 2011

Physicians, nurses, and midwives might have to toss their neckties, jewelry, and lab coats under an infection prevention effort making its way through the New York State Legislature.

Sen. Jeffrey Klein's (D) bill S4909 would establish a 25-member "Hygienic Dress Code Council" appointed by the Health Commissioner to advise on whether banning such clothing and accessories in healthcare settings could prevent infections such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

The council would establish "the best practices for mitigating and eliminating the spread of disease and other infections via practitioner clothing, jewelry, and facility identification tags," Klein's bill says.

The council would also consider other dress code rules for clinicians, such as a "bare-below-the-elbow policy, no-necktie policy, education and instruction to patients and practitioners, provision of clean scrubs and uniforms, and prohibition of wearing clothing worn during treatment of patients outside of the health care facility." Physician assistants, specialist assistants, and cleaning personnel might also have to comply with new rules.

The reason for the bill, Klein wrote, is the "crisis" in availability and affordability of medical liability insurance, and the need to improve patient safety to reduce malpractice awards.

"Therefore it is logical to reduce, and when possible, eliminate preventable injuries to curtail medical malpractice costs and accompanying premium rates," the bill reads. A reduction in infections would also reduce claims, "and thus the rising costs of medical malpractice insurance."

New York State would not be the first to embark on such a path.

The British Department of Health and Scotland health officials have set forth guidelines that banned the "traditional white coat and other long-sleeved garments" in an attempt to prevent nosocomial bacterial transmission, according to authors of a paper published in the April issue of the Journal of Hospital Medicine by researchers from Denver Health.


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