our hospital stopped insisting parents and visitors wear gowns back in the early 1990s after some study showed they made no difference in infection control... seemed to be a hold-over from the 1940's and 1950's. we do however keep gowns available for parents/visitors who's clothes are not reasonably clean (mechanics with axle grease on their shirts, etc.). our parents/visitors must wash their hands well before entering the nicu each time.
we have never (since 1991) in our nicu been allowed to wear watches for infection control reasons. our higher-ups say that our watches often touch one baby or one baby's isolette insides and can then transfer bacteria to another baby since we aren't washing our watches between babies. i don't know how true that is, but i simply complied and didn't wear a wristwatch. many of us, especially transport nurses, wear lapel watches. i hang one on my right front chest area since i tend to hold babies on my left shoulder area. i also wear my name badge and anything else that could protrude and bother/hurt the baby, on my right side as well. our nicu has clocks on each wall and they are all set the same and controlled by a central clock in our maintenance area. works pretty well.
we are allowed to wear wedding bands if they are plain ones, but no rings with stones in them. supposedly the bacteria is nearly impossible to remove from the area under and around the stones. i used to date a jeweler and he showed me how truly disgusting the layers of dirt, oils, shed skin cells, lotions and other "stuff" that collects in the underside of rings can be. it can be absolutely gross sometimes. lots of our nurses didn't wear their wedding bands either. a couple of nurses lost theirs when they pulled of their gloves in a rush and the ring came off with the glove. one nurse lost hers down the laundry shoot! many nurses use a large safety pin to pin their ring and watch to the inside of their scrubs pocket... in case the pin comes unhooked, the ring/watch will fall into their pocket.
as far as the water issue goes, our higher-ups thankfully consulted us when designing our new nicu a few years ago. they designed a counter which fits along one wall outside of the intensive side of our nicu where we can keep drinks including water, sodas, coffee, etc. we have a nice coffee pot on the counter, and our breakroom (which houses our refrigerator, restrooms and dining table), is just on the other side of the counter. also the counter has windows all along the top third so we can see into the nicu when taking a sip. (under the counter is a bunch of drawers and cabinets we use for all kinds of storage.) the counter/window area is not where visitors or anyone else can see into the nicu. osha regulations in our state say we cannot have food or drinks in the same area where body specimens or drugs are handled. we are incredibly fortunate to have the ability to grab a sip of water so readily! another thing they did when designing our nicu was to install our own air conditioning and heating unit which keeps the humidity set at 30% (i believe) which is optimal for the babies. helps us too because humidity can be awful in the deep south!