When you go to a clinic or hospital, you will notice several types of clothing that medical employees wear.  There are many other types of medical garb in different departments that you don’t see, unless you must have certain tests.  Nurses and doctors are not the only ones who wear protective clothing.  Those different types of medical garments not only protect medical professionals from pathogens, but also protect patients from possible contamination by non-sterile clothing.

Manufacturers of medical protective clothing may vary the materials that they use in their products, but there are several features in common that allow the clothing to perform its  functions easily and comfortably, which include:

  • lightweight materials for comfort;
  • Different weave permeability based on intended use;
  • Adjustable closures, using either cloth ties or elastic bands;
  • Coatings or anti-static compositions to prevent bunching that could compromise protection;
  • Fluid repellant coatings on the inside combined with fluid repellant coatings on the outside;
  • No-lint grades of cloth;
  • Footwear with anti-skid treads for safety.

Listed below are some of the articles of clothing that medical professionals  wear:

  • Scrubs: These are one of the most familiar to patients.  They are worn by nurses, nurse aides, janitors, and others in hospitals, clinics, home health care and hospice settings, and dentists’ offices.  They may be worn over other clothing, and are easy to change and replace if soiled or contaminated.
  • clip on side shields: goggles protect against sudden splashes of fluids such as blood, vomit, or other body fluids.  They should completely cover the eyes, and wrap around to the temples for extra protection.
  • Masks:  Generally worn over the nose and mouth to keep from exhaling micoorganisms in a sterile environment or to protect them from contagious diseases in the surrounding air.  Many civilian individuals wear masks to keep from being exposed to particulate matter when they are traveling or have low resistance to catching illnesses.
  • Gloves: Gloves are another of the widely used parts of protective clothing.  It is imperative to wear gloves when dealing with body fluids or sterile equipment.  Latex gloves are flexible enough to not impair the provider’s dexterity.  They are inexpensive and can be discarded after use.
  • Shoe and boot covers: Thin, elastic booties cover footwear completely, and are made to accommodate shoe sizes and styles. 
  • Scrub and Surgical Caps: Headgear that covers the hair and scalp in order to keep microorganisms contained, but control the wearer’s hair.  Surgical caps are tighter than scrub caps in order to maintain a sterile environment.
  • Surgical gowns: Rear-closure gowns are used by surgeons and discarded after use to avoid contagion. 
  • Disposable Sleeves: Independent sleeves have elastic at both top and bottom for a secure fit, and are necessary when gloves do not furnish adequate coverage,yet a full gown is not needed.
  • Lab coats: Many physicians wear lab coats when in their clinics or making rounds.  They usually have several pockets for the wearer’s convenience.  Lab coats furnish a minimal level of protection in emergencies.
  • Radiology aprons:  These are made of lighter weight material, (but still contain lead), than the old lead aprons, allowing  more comfort to radiology workers while still protecting them from radiation.
  • Uniforms: EMS personnel wear high visibility uniforms to keep them safe while working around traffic accidents and other high level emergencies.  Uniforms include protective pants, shirts, vests, jackets, special belts and arm bands.

When you visit a hospital, you may be asked to don a mask, gown, gloves or other piece of protective clothing, especially if you are seeing a patient in intensive care, or children’s unit.  This is not only for the patient’s safety, but yours, as well.   Do not touch things the patient might touch – hand rails, the t.v. remote, or phone.  Be sure to wash your hands before entering and after leaving the patient’s room.

Have you noticed how glamourous  actors in medical shows are?  Most of the time when they are doing surgery, they aren’t wearing the protective face shields or goggles.  Maybe we couldn’t hear what their next line is!   Real medical professionals,  (the people behind the masks, goggles, and  all that other paraphanalia ) are doing their jobs while wearing the personal protective equipment that is required for each particular task they undertake.