A good excuse not to wear neckties

…They make be spreading disease.

British hospitals are working on keeping that in check by implementing a new dress code:

British hospitals are banning neckties, long sleeves and jewelry for doctors — and their traditional white coats — in an effort to stop the spread of deadly hospital-borne infections, according to new rules published Monday.

Hospital dress codes typically urge doctors to look professional, which, for male practitioners, has usually meant wearing a tie. But as concern over hospital-born infections has intensified, doctors are taking a closer look at their clothing.

“Ties are rarely laundered but worn daily,” the Department of Health said in a statement. “They perform no beneficial function in patient care and have been shown to be colonized by pathogens.”

Of course, at issue is the fact that for doctors coming into close contact with many ill patients, all that extra fabric and buttons and ties and watches are just additional places for bacteria to colonize and hop on over to the next person.

Will it help? Not sure, but I suppose it falls under the “can’t hurt” category. The article also notes that a study of doctors’ ties a few years’ back showed that almost half were contaminated with a minimum of one species of pathogen–so eliminate the dirty tie, maybe they’ll pass around fewer germs? Time will tell, I suppose.


  1. #1 Gack
    September 18, 2007

    There is also a bad practice of not providing brushes for cleaning under the fingernails at washup stations. The problem has been known since Lister, but still not everybody is on board.

  2. #2 Tara C. Smith
    September 18, 2007

    The article also mentioned elimination of fake nails…I’m surprised they were ever allowed in the first place. Is this common?

  3. #3 J-Dog
    September 18, 2007

    I am almost afraid to ask about beards and mustaches… but it’s a question that needs to be asked.

  4. #4 Gack
    September 18, 2007

    Well, since moustaches and beards are now out in the open, what about arm and hand hair? It’s not like anybody needs heavy (or light) arm hair to keep their forearms warm, and it is a lot of excess surface full of teeny-tiny fissures. Shave it off daily and be done with it.

  5. #5 Ron
    September 18, 2007

    Unlike ties, beards and moustaches are thoroughly cleaned daily.

  6. #6 Ben
    September 18, 2007

    This – that neckties can spread disease in hospital settings – is rather old news, no?

    Regardless, my solution: bowties.

  7. #7 Tara C. Smith
    September 18, 2007

    Yes, it’s old news, but it’s apparently something that’s difficult to change.

  8. #8 Nat
    September 18, 2007

    Can’t do bowties.

    The Surgeons will get all territorial and annoyed.

  9. #9 Mark P
    September 18, 2007

    Medicine is a very conservative craft.

    Bowties have the same problem as ties, although I suppose they are less likely to drag into an open wounds.

    A friend from long ago went to Saudia Arabia in the early 1970s as his wife, a nurse, worked in the royal hospital. He said that it was very luxuriously finished, including carpeted walls.

  10. #10 Pieter B
    September 18, 2007

    Back when I worked at A Major Southern California Medical School (as a non-clinical tech type), I started a tradition of Bow Tie Mondays to go along with Hawaiian Shirt Friday. At that time, some of the messier branches of clinical practice were know as “Bow-Tie Specialties,” with GI being in the vanguard.

  11. #11 KevinC
    September 18, 2007

    Another reason I like living in the Sonoran Desert, nobody wears ties.

  12. #12 Janne
    September 18, 2007

    I’m amazed it took this long, and that there’d be physicians opposed to it. Just think: dip your tie in the runoff from an abcessed wound, then, at lunch, dip the same tie in your soup. Yummy.

  13. #13 Jose Morelos
    September 18, 2007

    It would be good to do away with neckties, long sleeves and whitecoats in general that are symbols of sociopsychology, hierachy and authority.

    Let’s face it, doctors are “body mechanics,” experts on drive in diagnosis and fixing the human machine to the limit of their knowledge (which is tragically limited). Doctors should dress like your local mechanic, short sleeve scrubs, Spandex tights, fashionable combat boots (Raeboks), etc.

    Now in a political time of argument to give them more economic authority by extension of national healthcare, it’s time instead to move them into low cost, drive-by services as Jiffy Lube, Midas Muffler, Wal-Mart photo, haircut/manicure service booths, etc.


  14. #14 Organic Chemistry Help
    September 19, 2007

    I think what ashould be highlighted here is that the hospital is taking affirmative step to reduce the transmission of disease, which along with treatment/prevention, I would think would be a major goal for them. So the doctors look a little less “professional”, big deal. You only see them in your room for about 10 secs a day anyways.

  15. #15 Dark Matter
    September 20, 2007

    What is going on here?

    What about pens and cell phones/pagers that the doc may be carrying also? Are these hospitals backing away from glove use/handwashng
    training for docs? If that training is not being done then eliminating ties aren’t going to help.

    White jackets: staff should have enough jackets to swap ’em for
    new ones every 3-5 days..

  16. #16 Ken Mareld
    September 24, 2007

    Yes wearing ties is a cleanliness issue. Doctors still cling to them though. They are one of the last symbols of authority they they can display. Doctor, Nurse, Aide, who can tell the difference if they all wear scrubs? Why should it matter?
    If hospitals really want to get a handle on nosocomial infection, they need to start cohorting patients with C-diff, MRSA, VRSA, and whatever onto separate units. I do not see this occurring in the Seattle area hospitals I’ve worked at. How about in the UK?