Journal of
Public Health and Epidemiology

  • Abbreviation: J. Public Health Epidemiol.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-2316
  • DOI: 10.5897/JPHE
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 655

Full Length Research Paper

Nurses’ uniforms: How many bacteria do they carry after one shift?

Marie-Anne Sanon and Sally Watkins
School of Nursing, University of Michigan, 400 North Ingalls, Room 3356, Ann Arbor, MI, 48109, USA.
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 05 October 2012
  •  Published: 31 December 2012


This pilot study investigated the pathogens that nurses are potentially bringing into the public and their home when they wear work uniforms outside of the work environment. To achieve this, sterilized uniforms were distributed to 10 nurses at a local hospital in Washington State at the beginning of their shift. Worn uniforms were collected at the end of the shifts and sent to a laboratory for analysis. Four tests were conducted: 1) a heterotrophic growth plate count, 2) methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) growth, 3) vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE), and 4) identification of the heterotrophic plate counts. Each participant completed a questionnaire and a survey. The results showed that the average bacteria colony growth per square inch was 1,246 and 5,795 for day and night shift, respectively. After 48 h, MRSA positives were present on 4 of the day shift and 3 of the night shift uniforms. Additional bacteria identified include: Bacillus sp., Micrococcus luteus, Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis, and Micrococcus roseus. The significant presence of bacteria on the uniforms 48 h after the shift ended necessitates further study, discussions and policy consideration regarding wearing health care uniforms outside of the work environment.


Key words: Scrubs, uniforms, infections, nurses, healthcare providers, pathogens.