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23 August 2009

Blood on My Scrubs

I can't say I've honestly thought about what happens to my scrubs throughout the course of my medical career. Until last night. I don't know why I had this surreal moment in the middle of a trauma code. I was handing a chest tube to one of the surgery residents to place in this patient's chest, and I looked down to step back as a puddle of blood had formed on the floor.

I noticed the blood spattered on my scrubs, and my first thought was, "Darn, I don't have a clean pair and it's the middle of the shift." Then, I started thinking about all the bloody, vomited on, amniotic-fluid covered scrubs I have worn during my medical training.

In medical school, most of the scrubs worn in the anatomy labs were new, bought excitedly in anticipation of starting your medical training. By the end of the year, w
e had a mass burning of these soiled clothes that had spent countless hours, literally elbow-deep at times, working to understand and learn the intricacies of the human body. I threw my shoes out too.

In your third year when you start your clinical rotation, you grabbed scrubs whenever you could. The residents had access to the scrubs machines and some hospitals had a general pile. We didn't have access to the machines so you stocked up when you could. Sometimes your scrubs got soiled midshift, and you had to have some kind of backup. I kept an extra pair in my "on-call bag." So, by the end o
f your medical school training you had this mixed bag of scrubs sporting the "not to leave the premises" or "property of" imprinting from the various hospitals.

These became a badge of honor in a way when I started my internship. You'd go to work in your home scrubs some nights on call. Everyone would look at your scrubs and say, "Oh, you worked there?" or "Oh, do you know so and so at that hospital?" We had access to the scrub machines there when we had to go to the OR, but you were only allotted 3 sets at a time. Sometimes you just didn't have time to r
un to the machine (or most likely the machine was empty), so it was more convenient to always have a pile of scrubs in your locker. We learned ingenious ways of getting more scrubs (including timing your visit to the locker room when the filler of the scrub machine was loading the machine... "Geesh, I don't have my card right now and I've got to get to the OR, can you help me out?") so that you had quite the surplus too by the end of the year.

Of course, the bloody, messed up ones went into the dirty bin. So all the s
crubs you kept were nice and clean. At this point in my life, I have a pile of scrubs from all the places I've been. Most of them are blue in some shade or other. Some are what I call OR green. I have a cool teal green pair from a hospital in Rhode Island where we went on a transplant run while I was in Boston. We had to wear their scrubs to go to the OR for the harvest, and we didn't change out on our way home since time is of the essence in transplants.

But, when I became an Emergency Medicine resident, we didn't get scrubs. So we all had to go back to grabbing them when we could while on other off-service rotations.

Last year, our residency bought us these cool black "Ninja" scrubs.
I don't like to think about what collection of body fluids accumulates on my shoes and the bottom of my scrubs by the end of the night. And, like last night, you can't help but get something on you.

Because we got a limited amount, they go right in the dirty bin when I get home. They get washed with the super-extra strength detergent after an Oxy-Clean soak. You just don't know what's hiding on them....


Julie said...

I don't think there is a body fluid, wait....maybe 2, that I haven't gotten on my scrubs throughout the year. I loved it when the hospital did our wash. Thinking about it always makes me want to bring my own linen if I ever have to be a patient.

a corgi said...

I just always assumed you got to work, went into a locker room, got a pair of scrubs, put them on, used them for the shift, then changed back to your clothes at the end of it and let the hospital take care of laundering them. Maybe that's how it was at some of the hospitals my hubby has worked at because I know there was always the problem of people wearing scrubs out of the work place and the hospital always needed to buy more to get supplies up.

it would be kind of grungy to think about going home and having to wash out the day........

very interesting entry Veronica


Lisa said...

This sent my germaphobe mode in to high gear! I won't even breathe if someone is walking in front of me who looks dirty or seems to be ill. I won't shake hands, use public restrooms, touch pens, door get the idea. I would be a mess if I had someones blood (or other fluids) on my clothes!!! I would soak in Purell! LOL. I always thought the way Betty did.