Some Thoughts on Nurse Uniforms

I also like teasing already angry cats by poking them with pointy sticks.

Anyway, some free and completely unsolicited thoughts on nurse uniforms, just to throw a little gasoline on the fire.

1. White is dead. Deader than Florence Nightingale. More out of date than IV theophylline. Sorry. It’s ugly, hard to clean, gets that dingy-grey colour, looks crappy on me, and did I mention it’s ugly? Also has unfortunate and disturbing overtones of the old nurse-as-physician’s-handmaiden-and/or-sex-toy meme. I think of nurses in white uniforms, and nursing caps, capes and Marcus Welby, MD come to mind. And the olden days when nurses would all stand when the physician came to the floor.

However in one hospital in the US has gone for that retro look:

Years ago, nurse uniforms were all white, very basic. Well, that look is making a comeback of sorts. This time at Heartland Regional Medical Center in Marion.

“The nursing staff went with white. Because how basic can you go back to then seeing a nurse in all white. It signifies purity and professionalism and caring and that’s what we’re about,” said surgical unit director Greta Smith.

I get the professionalism thing. But the purity angle? What the hell is that about? We’re pure of heart? We wash our hands? Morally pure? Have never known men carnally (or women, as the case may be)? Gratuitous aside: I often think managers tend to project their own neuroses into the policies they write.

2. On the other hand this I think is just plain silly:

I’m with At Your Cervix: if you are wearing cutey-bears — makes TowontoEmewg Fwow Up, it does — I cannot take you seriously. Unless you are a paeds nurse. (Frankly, even then I would be a little doubtful.*) Can you imagine explaining thrombolysis to your STEMI patient dressed in this? Personally, if I were the patient, I would either get the giggles or be very, very afraid. Because, as we know, nothing bespeaks competence in health care like teddy bears. Not to mention infantilizing the wearer, which brings us back to the basic problem with All White.

3. For my money, it’s got to be your basic solid colours. Nothing too frilly. No apple blossom pink, or anything like that. (See infantilization, above.) Even better, pick one colour to wear, all the time. Then you don’t have to worry about matching anything, and you don’t have to think about what your going to wear. Face it, you’re going to work in blood and faeces, not walking down the runway at Chanel’s spring show. Add stethoscope and name tag, and you’re Nurse Deluxe.

You’re welcome. You can direct hate mail/flames to my employer, Acme Regional.


*Also, everyone always says it’s okay for paeds nurses to wear bears. Or what-have-you. Why?


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  1. #1 by mog on Sunday 24 January 2010 - 1006

    Hospitals should issue the uniforms. One colour scrubs for nurses ie blue, another colour for MRTs another for MLTs etc etc.

    The patients /doctors/ staff would have a clue who eveyrone was

    Hospitals should launder the uniforms – high temp, infection control etc,

  2. #2 by shrtstormtrooper on Sunday 24 January 2010 - 1142

    Our hospital does the single color for what your job is – and it’s great. It makes life easier on the patients, we all look professional, I can spot the pharmacy tech a mile down the hallway, and buying scrubs is super easy.

    I’m with you on the teddy bears though – unless you’re in peds, cutesy things is just…wrong. The day that I spot the cardiologist wearing scrub pants with butterflies is the day I’ll eat my shoes.

  3. #3 by atyourcervix on Monday 25 January 2010 - 1032

    I really love wearing very tasteful print tops. I admit, I get tired of wearing the same old, same old every day. I like to twist it up a little bit. We have hospital (ugly!) green scrubs that we can wear, or we can wear our own.

  4. #4 by paedsnurse on Tuesday 26 January 2010 - 2112

    I have never heard of the whole wearing teddy bears is ok if you’re in paeds. I don’t own any teddy bears, but I do have some Disney and Hello Kitty scrubs. A little on the cutesy side but the kids love ’em, especially the girls. As for the boys, they love my Mario scrubs.

  5. #5 by Amy on Thursday 28 January 2010 - 0114

    Mario scrubs?! AWESOME!

  6. #6 by NurseKel on Monday 15 February 2010 - 1836

    1. I dig the concept of whites, except for the obvious practicality issues (ie, my tendency to attempt to eat via osmosis through the front of my shirt).

    2. Random excited outburst, but I did my 2nd year OB clinicals at Heartland!! Ok, I’m done now. Hahaha.

    PS. Love the blog

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