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You Wear Your Scrubs WHERE?! The Do’s And Dont’s of Wearing Scrubs

Who knew that scrubs could be such a hotly contested topic?

Some say you shouldn’t wear scrubs anywhere outside of work because they could be a vector for infection; others say that doesn’t pose any real threat. Still, just the idea of spreading those germs does give me the heebie jeebies. Especially with the ever growing list of antibiotic resistant organisms out there.

Then there are those who think that wearing scrubs out and about may not be the best for building public trust. The Skeptical Scalpel writes, “Being “old school,” I don’t like to see people wearing scrubs outside the hospital. I just think it sends the wrong message — and what’s worse, it continues to provoke folks into writing letters, blogs and newspaper and magazine columns full of indignation.” Not being the most aware, I didn’t know that there even was indignation over this.

I say, like with most things in life, use your best judgment and be sensible. Don’t wear scrubs to Mardi Gras or to climb into a dumpster. And don’t roll around the hospital floor and then sit on the tomatoes in the produce aisle of your grocery store. Here are some more unofficial scrub wearing guidelines.

 Scrubs Do’s and Dont’s


Don’t wear scrubs to a party. Especially if you’re the type to let loose on the dance floor a la Elaine from “Seinfeld.” Unless it’s a Halloween party. But if  it is a Halloween party, and you’re a nurse, you need to be more creative than wearing scrubs, anyway!

Don’t wear scrubs when making a personal visit to someone in a hospital. Major confusion for everyone.

Don’t wear scrubs through holiday eating. Those drawstring pants can get mighty comfy mighty quickly after a few too many pieces of cake. Imagine your surprise when you finally pull on a pair of jeans to find that buttoning them requires an extra set of hands.

Don’t wear scrubs that are soiled. Yuck. Take those sad souls off before you go ANYwhere. Read our stain-removal guide to figure out how to best clean them.


Do wear scrubs at home on laundry day.

Do wear scrubs (an old, clean pair) when you’re in for the night. They make great PJs.Do wear scrubs to grab a coffee on your way into work. Unless you work in the OR or other sterile environment where you’re wearing street clothes and changing anyway. Not every area of healthcare has the ability to provide a locker room to change into work attire and you do need your usual caffeine dose after all.

Join the discussion

What do you think about nurses wearing scrubs in public?

62 Comments Post a comment
  1. Realy, I enjoyed.

    July 29, 2014
  2. Hank #

    I think your article is the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard.

    July 22, 2014
  3. Scrubs are worn by healthcare professionals for two reasons: street clothes are removed upon arriving at work and replaced with scrubs, to prevent nasty things being brought into the environment, and scrubs are removed before leaving work, to prevent nasty things from being brought OUT. I see health
    care workers in scrubs all the time, on he sidewalk, bus, subway, in eateries, etc. It looks bad, and in some cases, it DOES “bad”. Change your clothes, people!

    July 18, 2014
    • JO #

      Just like the article states where would you like me to get changed? I do not work in the OR or L&D. There aren’t hospital scrubs provided so I have to bing them from home and change where. The bathroom? If I’m clean in the morning I see no problem wearing them, like she said directly before work. Go home after and change. Then go out.

      July 23, 2014
  4. De #

    My mother is a nurse and constantly wears her scrubs around to “build up our immunity” but the thing that disgusted me most was that she would wear her hospital shoes all around the house. Even after telling us what she encountered at work that day. I’m a lab tech now and wouldn’t even dream of wearing my lab shoes out in public or at home!!

    April 11, 2014
  5. TB #

    I am a nurse now, so the issue of scrubs in public is something I am conscious of; however, I used to work as a massage therapist. The employer required their massage therapists to wear scrubs. I never gave it a second thought about running errands in public. Now in nursing, I see why people might give dirty looks.

    January 10, 2014
  6. Max #

    Whenever I see scrubs worn outside the hospital,I immediately think nurse’s aid or a nurse tech. I hope an RN would be smart enough to know that wearing scrubs outside of the hospital is not sanitary.

    December 30, 2013
    • Debbie #

      So you think that nurse techs or aides are stupid? That’s rude. I’m a RN & I wear my scrubs out, especially right before work if I have errands. It really depends on your department. I see RN’s all the time out and about in their scrubs with their RN name badge.

      April 8, 2014
      • Yes, “stupid” comes to mind, applied also to those RN’s that you see out and about in scrubs. Your department might be “clean” and YOU know what your “department” is, but the public that sees you walking around in scrubs, doing errands before work, doesn’t. A main goal of healthcare is to foster and maintain PUBLIC TRUST, and “image and perception” play a large part in that. Germs and other nasty things found in health care facilities, by the way, don’t necessarily “feel obligated” to stay in “their” respective departments. “Cross contamination”. Say it to yourself a few times and change at WORK.

        July 18, 2014
  7. Hank #

    A firm no on the scrubs in public.
    Here is a link to article: Nasty Scrubs Pose a Health Hazard

    October 24, 2013
  8. Tim #

    I prefer not to wear scrubs or “uniforms” of any sort outside of the workplace for sanitary reasons (yes I know there are no recorded cases of infection or epidemic from contact with hospital scrubs in public) and because I don’t like to stand out unnecessarily.

    Another angle here is the possible expectation that you will be the hero of the day if any medical emergency arises while you are out and about in scrubs. If there is a person having a stroke or an MI, there’s nothing most of us can do for them except call 9-1-1 and wait. Just like everyone else.

    October 9, 2013
  9. erica #

    Well what about the college students that are required to wear scrubs even if they are not handleing contaminants? i am required to wear scrubs every day that i have a lab and most days we stare at prepared noncontaminant slides under a microscope. am i supposed to change out of my sceubs when i leave school?

    July 19, 2013
    • Tacky Scrub Wear-er #

      I’m in high school and im required to wear them for my career class (medical terminology which doesn’t even involve other people or bugs or fluids) and i often wear them if i have something important to do after school and now i know why people give me dirty looks! What are we supposed to do, cater to their silly fears? I think we shouldn’t be judged as “tacky” or whatever, there is no proof that our scrubs directly hurt people so why the hate? They’re comfy and i don’t care honestly what people think about my “tacky disregard of health”. We save more lives than we hurt. Keep rockin the scrubs.

      October 24, 2013
  10. Meg #

    I’m an RN and I don’t want to be called an “old school” but a sensible person who cares for the general welfare of the public. I don’t wear my scrubs outside my workplace for many wears. In other words, that’s the standard I made for myself … Seen a lot of people wearing scrubs almost everywhere e.g. restaurants, malls, public transit, etc. Yes, there might be different protocols in wearing scrubs, but I believe it’s a personal choice… Ideally, they should not wear scrubs outside their work, too… Right now, I’ve heard many different opinions about the do’s and don’ts of wearing scrubs… Got tired of listening actually… Just a thought, what does the regulatory body say about this? Are they doing something about this issue?

    June 21, 2013
  11. j.z #

    I change out of my scrubs after work and into street clothes everyday. And I leave my shoes at work in my locker. Sometimes infections and/or parasites are not known for sometime before a person is put into contact isolation. I never want to take the chance of bringing home scabies, MRSA, C.diff….or any other disease that hasn’t been discovered yet. And I definitely don’t want it in my car for my family to sit in.

    April 7, 2013
  12. Yes scrubs should be provided by the work place, that would take care of the germ issue. In public take OFF your hospital badge when you go to the liquor store!! I am a nurse, never wore my hospital badge in public. Saw a young management person with hospital badge on buying liquor. She should know to remove it in public!! Obviosly old school.

    April 7, 2013
  13. Great idea.. I also think that scrubs should be wear only working time as nurses have to face various patients in daily routine.

    April 5, 2013
  14. maggie #

    How is it that so many of you are so narrow minded. That is what she probably wears for her profession and who are the rest of you to try and degrade her. Shame on all you microcephalics. Would you ever say anything if a doctor attended in scrubs…….I think not since most of you still believe they walk on water. That nurse went through alot of schooling to get where she is and most of you need to get your collectives heads out of the sand. How do you know if she maybe was called in for an emergency and came from there to attend the meeting. Nursing is kept down by nurses and once you wake up and realize that we will progress more. You are so worried about who wears scrubs and where rather than take care of serious nursing issues, for instance in some states are you aware that nurses work 16 hr shifts and the BRN in that state states they do not interfere with employment issues. You want someone taking care of you or your family by nurses that work those hours just so they can only work for two days and get paid for four????? Pick on something important that concerns nursing and staffing rather than who wears scrubs where.

    March 25, 2013
    • You are admirably concerned with the very important aspects of nursing and staffing, and no doubt there is a blog for that, as it is, of course, a serious matter for all of us in the profession. This particular blog addresses wearing scrubs out of the work setting, and nothing excuses “tacky”. Absolutely nothing. We are professional, educated, and should look and act the part.

      March 26, 2013
  15. I attended a pharmaceutical dinner at a trendy Scottsdale restaurant. Another nurse practitioner walked in wearing lavender scrubs. All conversation stopped. I’m surprised they let her in.
    Nursing is a profession – look like the educated professional you are when out of your work setting.

    March 23, 2013
  16. Penny Wenger #

    I also wear my uniform back and forth to work (on my bicycle) so the people in the neighborhood will know I’m a nurse. Nurses are respected here in Israel so I feel safe.
    Also in the morning after a bath I like to put on my clean uniform and not get dressed twice.

    March 20, 2013
    • Ellie #

      Now I know why there are no scrubs in the machine, because ppl like you wear them as exercise clothes and pajamas.
      What does wearing a uniform have anything to do about feeling safe in Israel?!
      I’m a nurse in Jerusalem and i’d be ashamed to be spotted walking around anywhere but the hospital in scrubs – talk about being a walking petri dish- yuck! I work on a unit of seriously immunosurpressed patients and whenever I see ppl on the bus home in scrubs it makes me so angry! Just sheer laziness!!!

      November 10, 2013
  17. maggie #

    Very funny and very good advice.

    March 19, 2013
  18. RJ #

    I work in home care, where clean business casual is allowed but scrubs are more practical. When I come home, my uniform goes immediately into a hamper with other uniforms only, my shoes stay at the door. My carseat gets sprayed with disinfectant often, and everything I touch or touches patients gets wiped down with disinfectant wipes between patients. I carry an extra set of scrubs along with all the cleaning/disinfecting/isolation paraphernalia sometimes needed. Believe it or not, the biggest problem is patients whose homes have pets and pet hair is EVERYWHERE!!!
    In a hospital setting, ideally we would have room to change/shower/disinfect and store any personal belongings that we only use at work, but we all know that ain’t gonna happen!

    March 19, 2013
  19. maggie #

    Why would that be a problem….wearing scrubs in a high crime area and why would your employer send you to a high crime area is even more disturbing.

    March 19, 2013
    • DK #

      Are high-crime areas not allowed to have medical care or something? Who do you expect to go there?

      July 15, 2013
  20. Rose #

    With all the superbugs, I say don’t wear scrubs outside the hospital.

    March 18, 2013
  21. Jk #

    I was advised against wearing scrubs when I worked in home health care. My work would sometimes take me into high crime areas. If you wore scrubs to a home, it told would-be thieves “easy pickings here”.

    March 18, 2013
  22. maggie #

    I think your instructor has issues….the persons scurbs are most likely cleaner than most people’s hands that are touching all the stuff on the produce counters. That is one of the reasons you should wash your produce.

    March 18, 2013
  23. maggie #

    OOOOOhhhhhhhhh, just where I would want to keep my dirty shoes from work is in the trunk, where we pack up the groceries or kids stuff. Ever think of wiping them down just before you leave work with the stuff they keep on the ce contam cart, or use the lysol wipes sold in stores.

    March 18, 2013
  24. maggie #

    Unfortunately COMMON SENS is very lacking everywhere, old and new school are included. Keeping clean with protective covering is just basic nursing 99, not even 101.

    March 18, 2013
  25. maggie #

    Probably pick up more bugs out in shopping malls or movie theaters. Hospitals do provide scurbs in areas where scrubs are required and those are cleaned in temperatures which most home washing machines do not reach. Operating rooms, are the most common areas which scrubs are provided as well as cath labs and such. Most other areas people provide their own. If they become soiled with body fluids, most can get a set of scrubs to get them through the day. Hospitals should not be required to supply scrubs for all employees. People need to be responsible for their own clothing. Most nursing staff do have available to them cover gowns to protect their clothing when handling body fluids or changing dressings. Take them off the decontamination cart and used the protective gear that is provided.

    March 18, 2013
  26. Maria T. #

    When I was doing bedside nursing, I made it a point to change out of my scrubs before going anywhere after work. But now that I work in an office setting, I miss my scrubs and I make every Fridays my “scrubs attire day”. It helps take the worry out of what to wear to work that day!

    March 18, 2013
  27. ja #

    I am a school nurse and wear my scrubs to work and back home. I do sometimes have to leave to take my child to a doctors appointment and then come back to school to finish my workday. I also cover two school buildings so I am seen outside my facility in my scrubs. I am also required to run a few errands outside the buildings thus again being seen in my scrubs. Not a big deal.

    March 18, 2013
  28. MaryAnn Foley #

    I am old,old, old school. I have NEVER worn scrubs, and I don’t intend to ever wear them. I am still working– at age 73– in psych nursing, where I wear fashionable business casual. I have been fortunate in that none of my patients have ever soiled my clothes.

    March 18, 2013
  29. Melodie #

    In reverse thought, I think about what I touch before I see my patients. I don’t touch my scrubs to other people who might be sick or animals or other items prior to going to work, so as not to infect my patients or carry in allergens.

    March 18, 2013
  30. C J H , EdD RN CNOR #

    There is a reason hospitas provide and launder scrubs. I work in surgical servicrces and have written policies where scrubs are worn in the surgucal area- not out side of surgery and certainly not to home where you engage with family (YUCK!).

    March 18, 2013
  31. Me #

    In this day and age people wear pajamas in public.
    When I was little Mom’s would wear dresses to a little kids party.
    People dressed according to occasion, it is different world.
    Don’t assume only nurses wear scrubs. Not all scrub wearers just worked 12 hrs in a germy place.Do I want to see scrubs as fashionable ? No. Nor do I want to see men in pj bottoms @ the store, We can not control what everyone decides to put on or leave on .Oh, maybe the fashion police can give citations-

    March 18, 2013
  32. Kevin #

    I guess I’m old school as well:). I don’t wear my scrubs outside of the hospital, I have a pair of shoes that stay at work!

    March 18, 2013
  33. Marie-Lyne #

    I wear a bunch of clothes, so I can take a few off when I’m done with my shift. I also change shoes as well which I leave in the car. Asking to change into another set of clothes? I’d never see the end of my laundry days… ):
    It would be nice if workplace offered scrubs as well as showers. If I were to change my scrubs into street clothes without a shower, I’d still feel dirty.
    I tell people “No hugs” if I have to go somewhere drop my child before I could change, and obviously shower. I can always see the surprise on people’s face when I say that, even with explanation.

    March 18, 2013
  34. Carol #

    My Fundamentals instructor always said her worst fear was seeing someone in the produce aisle lean against the tomatoes wearing their scrubs. I always think about that with the rise in infections, but usu. only wear mine home. No one knows where them scrubs have been!!!

    March 18, 2013
  35. Stephanie #

    Wearing (worked in) scrubs or the same shoes anywhere besides your facility is completely disgusting. I myself change my shoes at the trunk of my car and throw them in a designated shoe box in my trunk. And aside from being disgusting, it just invites people in public to rudely approach you about their personal health stories that many of us don’t want to hear, especially after a shift! Leave work at work!

    March 18, 2013
  36. Cheryl #

    In my experience a lot of people you see wearing scrubs outside of a medical facility don’t actually work in a medical facility. They either work in another venue that “requires” scrubs or in some cases, they just like wearing them! Go figure.

    March 18, 2013
  37. Denise #

    Just use your common sense…obviously a freshly laundered pair of scrubs is not an issue when you stop by somewhere on your way to work. If you are working with isolation patients, then wear your protective attire. Sometimes you can’t help if you need to stop by someplace after work–don’t where soiled scrubs anywhere & practice good hand hygiene.

    March 17, 2013
  38. There are other places beside the hospital wear scrubs are worn. I work in the home environments, adult home health and pediatric private dury in the home. Sometimes you have errands to run during the day in home health, like eating, when out all day, or after working nights in the pediatric aspect. You do not get the chance to change out of scrubs before going out in public

    March 17, 2013
  39. bengrn #

    I don’t think it makes a difference. Since docs began wearing scrubs everywhere it has become an accepted practice.

    March 17, 2013
  40. Wow I should do that. I did change my scrubs a couple times when I was a new nurse I was totally gernphobic

    March 17, 2013
  41. Linda #

    People other than health care givers are wearing scrubs in my city, don’t know whether a badly behaving person is a nurse, doctor, tech, aide, or just a person that thinks they look or feel good in scrubs. They’re even sold in the dollar store now, so they’re apparently not just for healthcare providers anymore. Personally, I’m old school, only wear to work. LG

    March 17, 2013
  42. judy #

    Making way too much fuss about scrubs. First of all they are very comfy and one should be able to wear them where they like as long as they are neat and clean. Now to pop your balloon……..lets not get so professional about scurbs, have you not noticed that these are the uniform of the day for inmates in jails and prisons???? Wake up you old schoolers, scrubs are NOT just for the medical profession anymore. They are sold everywhere and in all patterns and non patterns. We in the medical profession do not own the rights to this article of clothing, and all can enjoy if for whatever purpose they wish to use it. People that work in the operating rooms should only wear them there and that is why hospitals and such provide clean ones every day and those are not to be taken home as they do go through special cleaning and temperature according to state and federal rules. Scrubs have replaced the old nursing whites which still need to be kept neat and clean. Many professions other than medical use them for the shear reason they are easy to make, clean and are not that expensive. We had a good thing and now lets share it with others for whatever reason they wish to wear them.

    March 17, 2013
  43. Julie Wolf #

    Agree with dt. Clothing and shoes should remain at the hospital. That practice may slow the spread of antibiotic resistant infections.

    March 17, 2013
  44. Janet Tipper #

    Never wear scrubs after work on the way to the liquor store to buy that bottle of wine!

    March 17, 2013
  45. June Davis #

    I am a retired nsg instructor, so grew up with white uniforms, but also students ready to move forward. Scrubs are great, but in the best of all possible worlds, the facility would provide room, etc so we could change at work.

    March 17, 2013
  46. Maggie #

    Look, I’m hungry after work and I don’t think wearing my scrubs at 7 am at the Waffle House is demeaning to my profession in any way. Infact, people actually tell me thank yous and and thank yous and go om about how special people so my job……So- I wouldn’t do it every time, but if I didn’t have anything icky on me then I probably would still go…it’s not like I’m rolling in MRSA..

    March 17, 2013
  47. MtH #

    Scrubs should be supplied by the hospital as well as a locker room to change. Employees should then not steal them. When I see scrubs out, I think Housekeeping…

    March 17, 2013
  48. I’m a home health nurse so I have my scrubs on everywhere I go through out my day and everywhere I go Inbetween seeing my patients.

    March 16, 2013
  49. umahi esther #

    Good not to wear scrubs anyhow on the street. This degrades the profession for which it denotes.
    Obvious I’m old school.

    March 14, 2013
  50. dt #

    In a perfect world, scrubs should be provided by the workplace and only be worn while at work. The workplace should also provide lockers, changing areas, and laundering services. Work shoes should also be changed in/out & left at work.

    March 13, 2013
  51. la McCoy #

    Thank you.
    Old school here.
    Practiced taking scrubs off before leaving facility.

    March 13, 2013

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