Monday 27 March 2017

In the early 1800s and the turn of the century that followed, nurses strove to be viewed as legitimate, established professionals, bolstered by their significant role in caring for those injured in the many wars of the time. To aid sanitary conditions in hospitals, long gowns were worn, modeled after what nuns wore, to provide a “fever barrier” against infection. But, there was no covering for hands or for the mouth — only the nurse’s lower body itself was actually protected.

 Professional Dress Code in Nursing

Shortly after, in the early 1900s, identification as a nurse began to creep in, typically through armbands or hats with symbols. Nursing uniforms of aprons and white hats remained standard until the 1980s, when personal expression and comfort became a driving force. Gone were the white hats, and nurses began to dress more casually in personal clothing or scrubs and smocks of varying color and pattern.

At the same time, facilities often didn’t develop standardized uniforms or codes, making it difficult to distinguish different nursing roles or individual caretakers.


The controversy rages on about going back to a standard uniform for nurses, namely whites. Being a self-proclaimed pragmatist, I’d like to point out that white is very difficult to keep clean. This is an argument I have made since nursing school, when I was required to wear whites.  Many of us can’t keep a white t-shirt free of ketchup; how will we keep a white uniform free of blood stains?

Whites may represent nursing from the not-too-distant past, but we are a different group of people from back then. We care for more critically ill people, we deal with more diseases, and we are responsible for completing more tasks and procedures. With that comes quite a bit of messiness.

As for nursing scrubs themselves, I think that these should be tasteful to ourselves and the groups of people we work with. You’ve got to know who you are working with. There are some people, young and old alike, who totally dig the Marvel and DC Comic characters. They can be some great icebreakers, also with young and old alike.  But, above all, try to avoid being provocative with low cut tops or bottoms. If you don’t want people looking down your shirt or at your butt, wear something else or cover it up.

Future Nursing Uniforms

In the Geisinger case, the study found that patients would be best served by nursing uniforms that included gray and white scrubs, with a nurse’s credentials and role embroidered into the uniform.

Another facility, Northwell Health in New York, recently began requiring nursing scrubs made of microbe-resistant materials as a method of limiting infectious transmission.

In both facilities, the jury is still out on patient response to the new uniforms. But as with all good evidence-based approaches, they plan to conduct follow-up research and iterate to further improve the nursing experience in the future.

1 comment:

  1. My career began in white polyester dresses. There is no way to keep that clean. I worked in a church owned hospital. We were finally allowed pants when pics of our underware was taken while doing our patient care was presented to the Elders. I did not want to go back to those days! On the other hand, a few years back my mom was in the hospital when the chambray scrubs was all the rage. I knew those were scrubs. As a nurse you can spot scrubs from a mile away. The nurse had gotten cold and had slipped her sweater on. When I visited my Mom she wanted to know where all the nurses were and who was that stupid woman with the pink sweater and levies. We do need something to identify us as nurses. Something tasteful, easy to care for and economical. Please God, not those stupid little caps that served no purpose other than to yank out hair. I actually like the old aprons of the English Nurse.




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