Hurray for the writers of the program for their awareness of the issue, but I'm not sure I could come to the same conclusion the character did. Unfortunately, more medical professionals use fragranced products than don't, in my experience. Those that don't actually apply perfume or cologne are still likely to use fragranced lotions, shampoos or other personal care products or to wear clothes coated in fragrances from detergents or dryer sheets. I've had conversations with two medical professionals about the issue. Both told me the importance of being fragrance-free was mentioned in their training but they had never personally worked in an environment where the goal was mentioned or enforced.
Fragranced doctors and nurses aren't the only barrier to medical treatment for those with chemical sensitivities. Hospitals and doctor's offices are just as likely (maybe more likely) to be cleaned with toxic products than other buildings are. They are also just as likely to use "air fresheners" (see this previous post for more information on their harm) as any other public space or to use dangerous pest control methods. Most people with serious chemical sensitivities eventually give up trying to access medical care.
Fortunately, there are a few organizations taking the toxicity issue seriously. Health Care Without Harm is a global coalition working to reduce pollution in the health care sector. Their website contains information and fact sheets on cleaning products, pest control and fragrances, among other topics.
The Massachusetts Nurses Organization is another group ahead of the curve. An article in their newsletter and on their website discusses fragrance chemicals and their health effects, provides a model and sample of a fragrance-free policy, and includes a section on how to advocate for a fragrance-free policy in a healthcare environment.
One hospital that aims to be fragrance-free is Women’s
Policies and guidelines that attempt to reduce the toxicity of healthcare environments are wonderful, and I pray the movement will spread. In the meantime, however, individual actions can make a difference. If you work in the healthcare field, your personal decision to use synthetically fragranced products or to be fragrance-free will impact every patient you encounter. If you don't work in the healthcare field, but occasionally visit a doctor's office, your product choices will also impact other people who share the air. If you're feeling brave, you might even want to mention to the office staff that their use of air fresheners and fragranced cleaning products isn't a good idea. Maybe you can make enough of a difference that some of us with chemical sensitivities will be able to access the medical care we desperately need.