Updated: Jan 21, 2022
If you work in health care, you have a pretty good idea of what may be lurking on your shoes. Research tells us that some microorganisms even survive hospital cleaning (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7123372/). Guess where many of those germs are? That’s right, they’re on the floor. Guess what also spends most of the day on the floor? If you were thinking about the bottom of your shoes, you’re right again.
What kind of shoes?
I have been teaching health care providers for 20+ years. In many cases, I have been responsible for helping set the dress code for my students. I tell them that the most important part of their uniform is their shoes. Feel free to go buy your scrubs at the thrift store but invest your money in a good pair of shoes.
I suggest walking or running shoes and something secure on the feet. Sure, I love my Dansko’s, and they are perfect for when I’m doing a lot of standing, but nothing beats a good pair of running shoes on a super busy day. I also want a pair of shoes that are secure on my feet when I’m helping that unstable, fragile patient move from their wheelchair to the toilet. That’s not the time for my heel to slide out of my shoe causing me to lose my balance and land on the toilet with my patient. White shoes are so boring and, fortunately, many places are loosening up on the “white only” shoe policies we used to see 10+ years ago. I get it that white looks clean, but it doesn’t look clean for long and certainly does not look clean once it has been… well… let’s just call it “soiled”. I prefer shoes with a bit of sliver or glitter on them, but that’s just me. Get a pair that are comfortable, makes you happy, and that you know you will only be wearing to work.
So… what’s that on your shoes?
In nursing, we are very familiar with what ends up on the floor. Sometimes we are even the ones responsible for it getting there or for cleaning it up. We know that hospitals and health care centers are some of the germiest places on Earth. Guess where lots of those germs are? That’s right, on the floor (bonus points if you guessed keyboards, privacy curtains, or your uniform because those are up there as well).
All of those germs you are walking around and picking up on your shoes are then carried out of the facility to your car and wherever else you decide to go. Maybe you even wear the shoes in your house. Gross, but what can you do about it?
Take off your shoes. Take them off when you get to the car (or sooner) and put them in a bag. Throw on your flip flops, slippers, or anything else that’s not covered in bacteria, MRSA, and fecal matter. Of course, reverse this process when going into work. At the very least, leave your shoes at the door.
Clean your shoes. When you invest, invest in a pair of shoes that are easy to clean. Can they go in the washer on hot or easily be wiped down? Think about it.
Leave the “EW!” behind
We worry so much about washing our hands to stay clean and we don’t even think about simple things like our shoes. We want to keep our patients and ourselves safe so being aware of where else the germs are at is critical to our personal health, the health of our loved ones, and the well-being of all those we care for. Of course, there is also always the “EW” factor to think about. All of you with health care experience know EXACTLY what I’m talking about!
Patricia Graham MSN, RN, CNE