Going to a hospital with one medical problem and acquiring one or more problems while there is hardly an unusual occurrence. Hospital acquired infections are a common problem in certain health care facilities. Some of the most common pathogens are antibiotic resistant and have been known to cause serious medical problems, even death. One of the measures often employed to stop the spread of infections in a hospital is the use of sterile gloves and medical gowns by doctors. A recent study suggests that those measures are not effective in stopping the spread of all bacterial infections.
Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine analyzed infections rates for two common pathogens, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE). They determined that VRE infection rates at facilities with strict gloving and gowning policies were similar to facilities where only those treating patients with known infections followed such policies. The study involved testing more than 26,000 patients at 20 different intensive care units for MRSA and VRE. While the policies had some impact on MRSA rates, the spread of VRE was not affected by universal use of gloves and gowns.
Some critics of universal gowning and gloving policies have suggested that patients receive fewer visits from doctors and nurses due to the inconvenience involved. The idea is that fewer visits increases the chances of a missed diagnosis or an error in the care provided. The study did not support this trend. It identified a lower rate of error at the ICUs where the strict policies were in place. Given the decrease in MRSA rates, the study supports the more strict hospital garb policy.
Source: Time, “Gloves and Gowns Don’t Stop Spread of All Infections in Hospitals,” by Alice Park, 5 October 2013