Watch out for infection control

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 30 December 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2167
  1. James Hotham, sixth form pupil, King Edward VI Five Ways School, Birmingham,
  2. Katie Warren, sixth form pupil, Tarporley High School, Tarporley
  1. hothamj{at}

    We arrived for our work experience at a busy teaching hospital with “bare below the elbows” ringing in our ears. We adjusted our clothing accordingly—leaving jacket, tie, jewellery, and watch at home and rolling up our sleeves. This would never be allowed in school.

    As we entered the hospital, we wondered how health professionals were adapting to such a change in dress code, so we covertly kept track of all professionals we saw on the wards. When we came to look at the data, the results were surprising. Only 39% of doctors complied, compared with 84% of nurses. Further analysis of our observations showed 75% compliance among female doctors but a mere 34% compliance in their male counterparts. In 52% of cases the only failing was in wearing a wristwatch.

    “Arrogance,” one can hear government ministers saying. Or is it?

    There is a clear disquiet among professionals about a lack of evidence base for banning watches. Furthermore, many view watches as a clinical tool.

    However, in January 2008 the directive for “bare below the elbows” was issued by the Department of Health, and hospital trusts are compelled to respond. Perhaps a business venture in a macho, upmarket fob watch will fund our years in medical school.


    Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2167

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