Union Works to Make Teddy Bears Safe Everywhere

Teddy bears win one in Ottawa (click the link and scroll to page 9), a fail for the nursing profession:

Thanks to the lobbying efforts of one Local Coordinator/Bargaining Unit President and her members, and the overwhelming support of the public, The Ottawa Hospital has backed down on its plan to forbid nursing staff from wearing “colourful” scrubs. As recently reported in a local newspaper, the hospital announced to staff a new dress code that would ban nurses from wearing scrubs or uniforms that are colourful or feature cartoon characters. Saying the change in policy was part of a push to make nurses “easier” for patients to identify, the hospital also announced nurses would have to wear white lab coats while away from their units, including while on breaks.

“The hospital said it wanted nurses to appear professional and recognizable, but as registered nurses, we pride ourselves on being considered professional,” said Local 83 Coordinator Frances Smith. “When we see a patient, we introduce ourselves and our conversation with that patient is the most important thing that happens, not if we’re wearing lab coats. Often, the most cheerful thing a patient sees in a day is our colourful scrubs.* Meanwhile, our members are overworked, with the hospital at over 100 per cent occupancy the majority of the time. [Emphasis mine]

I’m not sure this is a victory for nurses, though. I’ve said it before: dressing like you should work at Chuck E. Cheese franchise does little to help your cred, when explaining, say, to your patient’s wife why her husband has to go for emergency surgery for his AAA. More to the point: which other health care profession thinks it’s okay to wear teddy bear scrubs, outside of Paediatrics?

Answer: approximately none.

Just me thinking out loud, but it I firmly believe anything that tends to infantilize or trivialize our professional integrity is to be avoided at all costs. Even if it means chucking all of those teddy bear scrubs in the trash, or better yet, burning them in a hot fire of renunciation.


*If  “colourful” scrubs are the best we have to offer as nurses, boy, are we in trouble.

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  1. #1 by Jenn Jilks on Sunday 24 April 2011 - 1052

    As a civilian, I agree. I want to know that the person I am speaking to is a nurse, not an aide.
    I trust a nurse more than a physician assistant, brand new, hot off the press.
    Someone with experience in working with me, and my upset family. Someone who understands, and has been trained, with life experience and credibility.
    In long-term care I met a couple of Personal Support Workers who didn’t hesitate to proclaim, and diagnose issues. Their name badge said only ‘nursing’, their department, not that they were PSWs.
    It makes a difference. Well said.

  2. #2 by Beth Boynton, RN, MS on Sunday 24 April 2011 - 1119

    I think there is validity to both sides od this argument. I personally would never wear teddy bear scrubs but I do wear a tie dye scrub top some times, (o Alzheimer’s unit and during my presentation at NYU forum on theatre for public health yesterday).

    Honestly, I think the staffing issue is a major concern. I also agree w/ Francis Smith’s comment about the value of an introduction & conversation w/ pt/family.

    I wonder if nurses were treated w/ more respect if issues like this would be less charged. Even arguing about it seems to make us look silly. We could simply respect difference.


    • #3 by torontoemerg on Sunday 24 April 2011 - 1530

      Thanks, Beth, for the comment.. Your point, that if nurses were treated with respect to begin with, we wouldn’t be having this discussion is well taken. I do think, however, that this argument doesn’t exist in a vacuum. While we ought to be aware of the factors which tend to demean or de-legitimize nurses and nursing (rigid hierarchy, unequal power relationships, sexism etc), we should also take responsibility for our public image as well — which includes how we present ourselves the public.

      That being said, I am sure there are those who wish to return to the blinding purity of the all-white uniform, and think my green are inappropriate.

  3. #4 by L on Sunday 24 April 2011 - 1727

    I think it’s confusing for the patient and that confusion doesn’t help nurses. When the MRT, me, is standing in ED talking to the MLT (about work related issues of course) and we’re both wearing whatever colours we fancy- the patients and their relatives don’t realise that they aren’t being ignored by nurses.

    From my point of view I want people to recognise me as an MRT, a separate profession with different skills. I don’t do cute.

    Quite apart from the whole infection control thing and how those scrubs get cleaned. I’m old fashioned, loose long hair. jangling bracelets, rings with stones in to harbour infection. pah, professional my arse. The issue is more than a few cute bunnies.

  4. #5 by undergrad RN on Sunday 24 April 2011 - 1938

    Touchy subject, but personally I think that solids and color-coded uniforms are way more professional-looking than the hodgepodge of what I see in the hospital right now. I saw pediatricians in street clothes rounding on pts, and everyone from NPs to unit clerks and housekeeping wearing every kind and color of scrubs.

    I hear that NHS has implemented color-coded uniforms, “<a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1267509/New-NHS-uniforms-scrapped-nurses-complain-unbearable-rashes.html#ixzz1KUDULhct"meant to make nurses, ward sisters and midwives instantly distinguishable for patients”

    Honestly, looking at the picture accompanying that link, THAT is the kind of professional appearance I had in mind. The average patient doesn’t care enough to peer at nametags and read titles. They call out nurse and whoever comes is fine with them. The honest people say “I’m your _______ (NS, CNA, whatever)”. The less honest staff don’t really bother, and what good does that do the profession?

    I WANT people, pts, families, staff, to recognize me as a student nurse without coming all the way up to me and peering at my nametag before they realize I’m not the person they are looking for.

    I don’t know. I just think it’s better. Echo your sentiments on infantilizing appearance. JMO

    • #6 by L on Sunday 24 April 2011 - 2001

      NHS clinical staff have always had uniforms provided, though not always scrubs. Inthe olden days when nurses wore dresses then the belt colour signified your grade/rank.

      Radiographers/MRTs generally wear white and maroon, physios navy blue and white. occupational therapists green. Nurses are usually in some shade of blue.

      Uniforms are provided by the hospital and sometimes laundered too.

  5. #7 by Sean on Sunday 24 April 2011 - 2013

    Which is one of the many legs companies are standing on when pushing for the all-white uniforms. I for one believe in solid color uniforms, just not a big fan of white heh heh.

  6. #8 by The Nerdy Nurse on Monday 25 April 2011 - 0555

    There are much bigger issues in nursing that need to be dealt with over loosing “colorful scrubs”.

    We went to uniforms, and although I don’t like the method or manner in which this took place, I do like the appearance of the staff and role delineation is has helped to accomplish. We may not like the brand, style, or even color, but most nurses agree that having uniforms, has a whole has been an improvement on our professionalism.

    My biggest gripe with the change? We can NOT wear white. As much as I want innovation in healthcare, there is just something about telling a nurse they cannot wear white that runs all over me.

  7. #9 by Jacke on Friday 13 May 2011 - 1635

    Ok don’t get me started on the Ottawa Hospital and their lab coat policy! The initial plan was to give nurses ONE lab coat and have them wear it at-all-times. *headdesk* needless to say that didn’t work very well as nurses were a germ factory. They were initially to help patients identify nurses on the floor, but then were just delegated to breaks/off the floors. And honestly no one wears them!! Then the whole thing was a bit of a flub. Then the whole certain scrubs policy was just implement wrong as they were going to make nurses buy XYZ. And Frances Smith is a bloody idiot. I can’t stand her.

    My solution to the problem print a TON of lameniated white badges that are the size of your palm with a pin on the back that say RN/RPN/PWS. Give two to every nurse and have back ups at the nursing station in case you forget it. Presto-bravo everyone knows who you are and what your role is. At half the price of giving pointless labcoats to nurses.


  8. #10 by xl pharmacy on Wednesday 09 November 2011 - 1249

    What a gorgeous! blouse ! I love it so much.

  9. #11 by beth boynton, rn, ms on Wednesday 09 November 2011 - 1258

    I agree! The conversation introduction IS the most important thing. Individuality and repect among nurses is vital too. I don’t wear teddybear scrubs but am totally fine w/ nurses who do. Beth

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