Scrub Rental: Look at Costs, Storage

Eric Frederick |

It’s important to be aware of the various marketing techniques used in the healthcare market. One that I’ve run across recently is an improved version of a uniform rental program for scrubs.
APIC and AORN (Association of periOperative Registered Nurses) have had a low-level debate in recent years: Should hospital-supplied, professionally laundered scrubs be considered an essential part of the infection control program, or nothing more than a uniform? Some hospital systems have stopped supplying scrubs entirely, while others have refused to make changes.
Commercial laundries have enticed some hospitals to consider scrub rental programs. Each employee is measured and custom-fit for the appropriate apparel, and a set number of scrubs is labeled per individual based on delivery frequency (weekly is the norm). The number is typically double the average weekly usage.
Delivery/exchange is based on a uniform exchange locker system. These lockers can only be used to store scrubs and can be opened by the commercial laundry as needed. Each employee is responsible for securing his or her assigned scrub sets.
Such a system is a big hit with many employees who desire consistent-fitting scrubs with little accountability for them. There are, however, a number of potential drawbacks to be considered.
• The first is available floor space. Most hospitals lack the space required to install the needed number of lockers. Various mobile devices that must be moved through hallways and stored when not in use compete for this space.
Since the lockers are designed for easy access by the commercial laundry (typically one large door that uncovers a number of individual lockers), they cannot be effectively used as a substitute for personal lockers. To ease deliveries, the number of areas where lockers are placed will need to be limited. The closer they are to the delivery dock, the better.
• Next is cost. Scrub losses are higher than those of most other linen items. The basis for a uniform rental program is that the hospital will pay full replacement cost for every lost scrub. These losses are determined by taking an inventory or by logging additional scrub sets put into the system so an employee has sufficient scrubs to wear.
Charges are established per uniform set. The minimum billing is based on 50% of the number of sets issued, or the actual number processed, whichever is higher. The hospital therefore will pay each week for some scrub sets that aren’t actually processed.
If an employee turns their scrubs in late, it could create a shortage the next week. These shortages encourage employees to process their own uniforms at home, but no matter who processes them, the commercial laundry is entitled to its weekly minimum charge.
Employees who end their hospital employment are required to return their scrub sets to the commercial laundry. Any unreturned scrub sets will be billed at replacement rates.
Doctors usually aren’t included in this system because they refuse to go to a locker to pick up their scrubs. Therefore, their scrub storage area becomes a prime area for loss. The hospital must also decide how to handle staff members who do not wear scrubs but whose clothes become soiled during the normal workday.
• Finally, most uniform rental programs are for a minimum of three years. The up-front costs justify the contract length, and companies that wish to withdraw sooner often have to pay a penalty. The true cost of a scrub rental program is harder to determine when it’s combined with a linen rental program for the entire facility.
Scrub rental programs should be carefully evaluated based on these factors. The best decisions always come from careful consideration of all the facts.

About the author

Eric Frederick

Carilion Laundry Service

Director of Laundry Services

Eric Frederick is director of laundry services for Carilion Laundry Service, Roanoke, Va., and past president of the National Association of Institutional Linen Management (NAILM), now called the Association for Linen Management (ALM). He’s a two-time association manager of the year. You can reach him by e-mail at


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