Color-Coded Care?

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


This isn’t a relatively new topic, but it’s a hot topic still up for debate. What do you think about mandating nurses to wear a specific colored scrub uniform?

I myself have had 2 reactions to this problem. My first reaction was a defensive reflex. “What do you mean requiring me to wear a specific uniform?” Are you paying for it? What the heck? What’s wrong with what I have been wearing for years?

I can’t say I was agreeing or disagreeing with this, I just questioned the notion. Honestly I have always only worn one uniform color of scrubs. I’ve never been one to wear the patterned scrub outfits (I hate to say it – is it because I’m a guy?).

I also starting having this overwhelming nightmarish vision of nurses being in all white again. Whether good or bad, I really can’t say I ever liked the stereotypical all white uniform, or the cap, or the skirt, or polished white shoes. Maybe it’s just me, but when I see an all white uniform I think of the orderlies who work in the psychiatric ward (yes, I fully admit to watching too much television). I guess I just feel that we as a profession have grown and evolved beyond what that uniform represents. We are not hand maidens, nor are we subordinates. We are independent thinkers and patient advocates who demand and require a great deal of critical thinking skills and knowledge. I despise the ‘I’m just the nurse’ attitude and answer.

So, color coded professions ehh? I’ve learned that the movement to go back to all white, or at least one color is motivated by those wonderful people from Press-Ganey. For anyone that has some familiarity with this program, company and service, they provide a measuring tool for how well a certain facility, profession is doing their intended duties. Patient satisfaction is the cornerstone of nursing, and Press Ganey has become the experts on patient satisfaction. (If you’ve ever been a patient, you get a lil’ survey during or after your stay – asking how your stay was)

So, patient satisfaction scores (from surveys) has informed us that most patients have no idea who is going in and out of their hospital room because of all the multiple outfits, uniforms, colors, etc. Are they a doctor? A nurse? A surgeon? A radiology tech? The list goes on.

It was discovered that patient satisfaction increased when the facility made each department and service have an exclusive color/uniform. When a person in a ‘white uniform’ entered their room – even if they weren’t told, they assumed and knew it was a nurse. This is unfortunately due to the stereotype I talked about earlier.

I for one really hate the all white uniform, but I’m all about providing the best care possible for my patients. While I’m joining the ranks of complaining of solid colored nursing uniforms and the all white persona, how can I / we argue with an intervention that increases patient satisfaction?

I’d love to hear you thoughts on this one. Share in the comments section below.

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.



  1. When I had my first jobs at restaurants, we were wearing black pants and white tops. Whwen I worked for fast food restaurants, we wore the company uniform,nwhatever color (variations of orange and red as that stimulated appetite). When I worked in a nursing hime, housekeepers wore light blue /patterned tops and dark blue pants, nursing wore white lowers , colored tops, and nurses wore white WITH HATS stapled to their heads 9Bobby pins). When I was a housekeeper in a large hospital , females were housekeepers wearing rose print tops and white bottoms. Men wore brown. Nurses still wore variations of white and printed tops. But it wasn’t just the patients that appreciated knowing who was who, Doctors did too. And various other professionals that were in and out. Later as a patient in the same hospital, all staff wore whatever they wanted and yes it was confusing. More recently as a patient in the same hospital, it was still wearers choice and there were so many obligatory cards on the nurses’ name tag holding device, not only was it always flipped over, but it was a mass of other cards, so who knew names unless someone said their name. I prefer dresses and I’m telling you, it is a wild goose chase trying to find modest dresses in colors. Everything is too tight, too short, too low cut. Unprofessional. I don’t see ANY traditional nursing shoes anymore. Coming from a time, the administrator would send you home if you wore white running shoes as your nursing shoes. Not only can I not find any in white anymore, they are those horrible duck shoes.

  2. Some of the comments I have read in this thread justify the saying, “ Nurses eat their young”. I’m currently a student graduating with a BSN in December, and CNA’s can run circles around me. In this field experience is what matters, not a degree. My mom has been a Nurse for 35 years with an ASN, and it’s ridiculous to me that the profession has become so concentrated on academics. I am personally so grateful for CNA’s , LPN’s, and NICE RN’s that recall what it was like to be a newbie.. the ones that are willing to help me. It is a shame that in a field which requires individuals to have a passion to help others, there is some who act entitled. Perhaps the bullies should rethink their career choice… I think you know who you are:)

  3. Where I work, nurses (RN and LPN) wear navy blue or white, or a combination of the two. I like this because it gives us an option of what to wear. I would not like having to wear all white (or a skirt! But it is allowed for females if that’s what we want to wear)- this way I can wear a white top and navy pants or vice vera. It still does look professional, and we still have a little bit of freedom in choosing our work attire.

  4. At first I really disliked color coding. Then one day a pt stated she found it comforting she knew who the nurse was. She went on to say she could not read name tags anymore but could see colors. That was an eye opener. We want our pt.’s to comfortable so that they can heal.

  5. May I suggest progressive education? CNA to LPN to RN to RNP to !MD. It would certainly make some people more empathetic, and level the playing field. Would also add time, experience and income.

    What happened to school pins?

    Badges should be double-sided to eliminate the ol’ “flip my badge over so I get more (name your reason). Progressive education/ certification could be laddered to the original badge – CCRN, BSN-C, Preceptor, etc.

  6. It’s not the clothes that make the nurse it is the skill and knowledge. Scrubs are much more colorful and enjoyed my most patients. Wearing a hospital name tag and introducing yourself and your designation is more important than what color you are wearing. I have been a nurse for 36 years and although I like white it is not practical and not necessary. I prefer patterned tops and solid pants. I think as long as the clothing is neat and clean it is irrelevant to the care you give. there are so many more important things to think about than what your nurse, pca, doctor, lab tech, xray tech, dietary or housekeeping workers are wearing. I have been a patient many times and absolutely don’t care what color anyone is wearing as long as they know what they are doing.

  7. We have 2 hospitals about 30 miles apart. One of the RNs from hospital A wearing her required color-coded scrubs went on an errand to hospital B. The scrubs she was wearing happened to be the scrubs that housekeeping wore at hospital B. As she was walking down the hall, a patient’s family member called her to the patient’s room and demanded she mop up the mess in the bathroom right now. The nurse tried to explain her situation but her explanation met with an announcement that she was going to be reported to administration for her poor work habits. Thankfully another nurse from that hospital came to her rescue. Imagine the poor nurse’s frustration over a “simple requirement for color coded scrubs.” And yes, she was wearing her name tag but not the same ones from that hospital.

  8. I don’t really know what everyone is in such an uproar about. Most hospitals where I worked early in my career had different color scrubs, if you wanted to wear scrubs, that were determined by the area where you worked. Rose is right in that most patients would probably prefer that nurses wear white.

  9. Back in the 90’s each floor could decide which color to wear. All staff permanently assigned to that floor wore the same color uniforms(scrubs). The patients could easily became confused between the nurses and the support staff. A staff member that was floated to another floor was an oddity. Nurses should stand out, patients should not ever be confused between the nurse and support staff. Wearing certain color uniforms, based upon duties and roles, makes it easier for patients (and family members) to identify the nurse. Wear the white proudly, you earned it!

  10. You can’t beat this idea. The nursing administration where I worked wanted the nurses to wear scrubs with the big letters RN all over them ( like the Riddler on the old Batman show). ( they never asked the doctors to wear scrubs with MD all over them)

  11. I work in MCH. There are studies that show children are more fearful of the white coat than colored, cheerful, age appropriate scrubs. In fact many pediatricians wear colorful ties or chold friendly clothing to herlp put a child at ease.
    I dont think mandating color coded uniforms improves care. Keep in mind the Press Ganey scores are being completed by a population that will change with time. Hopefully we wont make a broad change without using EBP to support the change.

  12. Whoa, I didn t know this was a RN/LPN discussion , but since we are here goes-I was told by a LPN that she hated me because I was a RN. Guess what? She learned to love me because I treated her with respect! My unit is a rehab unit and we can wear whatever we want as long as we look professional, we do have fun during the hoildays wearing fun scrubs. We wear name tags so no one confuses us with others.

  13. 1961 grad from a hospital based school for LPNs and have been licensed ever since in 4 states. Worked every department except PICU and the OR and took the same certification courses as the “real” nurses. Wore white and caps, even when family needs changed and I took up working in nursing homes. Eventually ditched the uniform for street clothes in alcohol and drug treatment centers which I did for 15 years. My LPN also helped when beginning working on an Associate Degree in addiction treatment. I held dual roles as health educator in several facilities. Finally, before retiring I ended up doing 8 years as assistant school nurse. I will NOT wear scrubs. They’re sloppy looking and most shoes I’ve seen are scuffed, run over and coming apart. Who’s the nurse?? Not sure. If I’m the patient, I always ask since many do not even introduce themselves and their name tags are illegible. Yes I consider myself a nurse since too many times I was in charge of up to 50 patients, or served medications for weeks on active surgical units. Remedy for the uniform question?? Bring back order. White is nice, but each institution and staff should decide how they will face the public they serve.

  14. I have been a nurse for 34 years. I entered the work force wearing white dresses, white hose, and white shoes. Yes stuff does get on the uniform but nothing bleach and a good washing didnt take care of. I was proud of my profession and proud to be a nurse. Everyone knew who the nurse was because we wore all white. We only wore our caps on special days and it was fun to see the different caps. When I was a pediatric nurse I made these apron sort of things with pockets out of material with the cartoon characters at the time so I could easily make instant contections with the children, but people could still see I was a nurse because the uniform was all white. I know I won’t be popular for saying this, but I dont like scrubs. I feel like it looks like everyone is going to work in their pajamas. Its hard to tell you is the nurse vs the housekeeper vs the doctor. I am currently an RN consultant for a memory care unit and to keep up the “home like” environment I wear dress casual but I miss the days of all white!

  15. Ok, if we are color-coding the nurses, then shouldn’t the doctors also be color- coded? They can all wear the same color shirt and different ties to point out their specialties? They are also a professional group just like the nurses. I am also a nurse of over 40 years and remember when we were asked to give up our chairs when the doctor needed it or even bring him coffee.. I remember the long road to be called a professional in our own right. So I say, if color-coding is mandated, then ALL professionals must be required to partake.

    • Why are you so adamant? Wearing color coded scrubs is great for patients. Knowing by color what department walks into your room is a big plus for patients. Isn’t it more important about patients than your fashion choices. As far as MD and mid levels are concerned, they are required to wear a white coat withtheir names embroidered on it. I think you should get over your color fear!

      • NO color fear here. Just saying if rules are required, then it should apply to all not just the nurses. And the white coat “requirement” most likely went out with the white caps that the nurses use to wear. I’ve seen doctors wearing Hawaiian shirts as their choice of professional attire. I still say we should color code the doctors’ ties, say brown tie for Gastroenterologist?

  16. I’m an older nurse of 35 years in practice. I’m from the white cap and dress times and as others have mentioned, I’ve seen all the different changes. My employer had use change from colorful whatever we choose patterns and colors to EVERYONE wearing a faded looked like it had already been washed 100 times teal! My employer proved them so they put their name in it. They looked sloppy, faded, drab, and did not fit anyone well. Since the entire range of staff all wore the same thing it was NOT done to help pt know who is who, it was marketing. And Magnet status. Let me just say my pt and families that where inpatient at the change time did not like it. They enjoyed the colors and cheerfulness of the patterns. One family member made the comment that we looked like teal colored robots walking in and out of rooms. Ok so I have liked some color coding in past when done right. I liked it when each unit had a nurses color and you could wear whatever you wanted solid or patterns in that color. WE as staff knew who is who dept wise. All the STNA’s wore one color, housekeeping wore there color. That was helpful. But let’s just say. Patients and families adjust to what ever! They don’t care or understand what Magnet status is or any other agency. If you go in with a smile, identify yourself, give them good care and respect, they will remember YOU!! The nurse that took good care of them!

  17. I think this is horrible in Pediatric hospitals. In the 26 years that I worked in a Pediatric hospital, almost every day a child commented on the cartoon characters on my scrub tops. It helped their comfort level in an often scarey environment. Large RN, etc. badges in Red made it clear for the families what our roles were.

  18. White is OLD SCHOOL and doesn’t stay white for long! Caps collect germs and bump into things! I’m PROUD of both that I had to wear EARLY in my career, but having been a patient (peds and adult) I LOOKED FORWARD to seeing what “my nurse” would be wearing each day! Most hospital systems in my area do the color-coded thing. I LIKE it as it DOES help me to know “who is who (RT, PT, RN, CNA, etc.).” Don’t know if most patients who are not nurses catch onto this and “get the code.” STILL….printed scrubs add interest to the patient’s experience if color-coding is not required and it’s more fun for The Nurse if he/she can express her/his individuality – AS LONG as it is CLEAN and looks PROFESSIONAL.

  19. Patients still ask the housekeeper for a pain pill . . . And as a traveling nurse I’ve worked in many hospitals and trust me, patients don’t know or care who is in which color. On the other hand, I have gotten plenty of compliments on my print scrubs from patients when I’m allowed to wear them.

  20. My facility changed to color coded uniform about 3 years ago. On the unit where I work (PACU) all the employees wear hospital provided scrubs for infection control. I personally like the color coded uniforms, as I immediately know who I am talking to as they enter our unit or if I talk to someone on the floor. I have been an RN for 26 years, recall wearing all white in the beginning of my career and think that color coding is a positive thing for patients, families and co workers.

  21. If the company buys them, who cares. As a patient many of times, I do not pay attention to the scrubs but to the care I am receiving and the manner of delivery.

  22. I just recently joined a healthcare organization that uses color-coded scrubs for their hospitals and clinics. I wasn’t a fan of the idea at first, (probably because I had to wear black scrubs), but after hearing from patients, I am now convinced that this a great concept.

    Now, as a patient that receives his care within the company, I am even more convinced. I know what department is interacting with me BEFORE I read the name badge.

    While it does take away from the independence factor, (we are individual professionals), it does add to the professional appearance of the organization as a whole.

    –David Moberg, MLT (ASCP)

  23. I don’t know if I am one to comment on this subject because I work in the Operating Room and we have always have had to wear color coded scrubs. But, the hospital pays for them and launders them. I have had patients comment that they couldn’t tell a nurse from a housekeeper. The main objection I do have is that company reps wear scrubs. I feel that is completely inappropriate in a patient care setting.

  24. I was a PCA for 12 years and enjoyed every minute of it. I have worked with Cancer patients for 17. I do not like the color coded uniforms.
    I’ve had several patients tell me and other staff that they love the colorful (solid and prints) uniforms. It brightens the room and day for them..If you introduce yourself when you go in the room, have your name tag where it can be seen and explain why you are there, patients wouldn’t be confused.

  25. I have just recently semi- retired and only now do private consulting. I too am from the era of all white uniforms, hose, polished shoes and white, clean, starched cap. I always felt proud to wear white and look clean and crisp and I personally liked it. I felt that patients/families and visitors knew who the nurses were vs the other staff.
    I do remember the change into scrubs and gradually the loosening of the uniform expectations even further. I do know that through all the changes with uniforms nurses have incurred, many departments have maintained particular colors for identity. Our profession is one to be respected and awarded great responsibility.
    I would definately support a standardized color ad I absolutely believe the public respects and appreciates the ability to recognize “the nurse”, and not by the “bumper stickers” that many of us as well as physicians have to wear beneath our name tags.

  26. Why do branches of the military wear uniforms? Why do sports teams? Why pilots? It creates unity and makes it less about the individual, more about the unit as a whole. Uniforms give a sense of pride in being part of the team. It makes them instantly recognizable and ilicits respect from the public. If all medical professions wore a standard color (like in England, there’s a national standard blue uniform) our individual professions would be instantly recognizable.
    What I wear is totally unimportant to me. I’m fine with the navy scrubs my hospital uses because i don’t have to worry about what I’m wearing. Ultimately, it’s about patient care. Peds should be an exception, though (hospitals are scary enough.)
    Shout out to the LPNs! In Florida, lpns pretty much man the SNFs and ALFs, as most hospitals won’t hire. It’s hard work (I’ve done it) and is the backbone of healthcare in a senior citizen dominated state. We’re all nurses, with different levels of education, yet all professionals. Mutual respect. I’m going back to school for BSN and plan on masters, too, because I want more opportunities. However, I don’t care what letters follow your name as long as you’re a good nurse.

  27. I am now nearing retirement and when I started in nursing I wore white dresses and proudly wore a nursing cap….until said cap fell into a bedside commode. I was doing cartwheels when nursing was told we could wear pants. I was speechless and nearly tearful when when the hospital decided colored scrubs were OK. Currently our non for profit hospital system went to color coded scrubs. In acute care hospital setting we no longer employee LPN’s but they have transitioned to clinic settings. The LPN’s will be happy to know our LPN’s wear the same colored scrub as the RN’s and yes LPN’s are nurses too. All staff were provided with three uniforms – any uniforms purchased after that were the individuals responsibility. At patient admission we provide a informative booklet explaining the colored scrubs – this booklet also has the TV channel guide. RN’s red scrub top, RT,PT, and Xray dark gray, CNA, desk staff wear light gray, house keeping are in burgundy and Bio, IT, and Facilities wear green. I have to admit I wasn’t over joyed at first but I’ve seen a positive response from family and patients. Personally, when approaching a nurses station staff look professional and families when approaching the desk know they need to talk to a person in a red scrub top to fine out their loved ones medical status. As a Charge RN through the years I’ve had several CNA’s venture out of their scope of practice when answering family or patient’s medical questions only the licensed RN or Physician should be answering. Being older I do miss the team nursing model (RN, LPN, CNA team) I’ve work with many remarkable CNA’s and LPN’s. Now days our patient’s are better informed and most of them have researched their condition on the internet. I feel this is a good change – it forces the professional RN to keep her knowledge base updated and current. When a patient or family member approaches an RN wearing the designated color scrub top – the RN will be prepared to take on their educator role.

  28. All the negative back and forth about LPN’s and RN’s get over it, they are nurses! Reality check!
    The color coding issue is not new people! All nurses wore white at one time, talk about colorless coding! Oh I forgot most nurses today never wore white, what a pity!
    Nursing needs to find better topics to grapple with like overcrowding, demands by pencil pushers who don’t live our reality!

  29. Now offense to the high and mighty RN’s, but all that the LPN’s are saying is that they are nurses too. Their scope of practice may be a little more limited (not by much), but they are still nurses! Being an RN does not give you the right to belittle “just an LPN”. I know some LPN’s who will run circles around some of the RN’s, many LPN’s train new RN’s (yes you read that right) and some of them have been bullied by “I’m an RN” so much that they have thicker skin and can handle a lot more than the mighty RN.

    • Are YOU kidding me? I am sick of hearing this marginalization from LPNs, CNAs and the office MAs. There is a lot of difference between a RN and an LPN. Read your Nurse practice act. If you want the benefits of being an RN then go back to school and become and RN, or is that giant chip on your shoulder preventing you? The hospital I work in doesn’t even hire LPNs and all RNs hired after 2007 have to have a BSN. If I wanted to keep my job, I had to suck it up and get my BSN. Period.
      Now back to the concept of colored scrubs–I like the idea. Our hospital has department colored scrubs nurses are not in white (no department is in white). Easy to know who is from what department. How about we introduce ourselves to the patient when you go into the room? “Hi I am so-and-so and I am your RN (phlebotomist, RT, PT etc) today.”

      • I didn’t say there were no differences. And as a MATTER OF FACT, I am going to school to get my RN. All I’m saying is that we LPN’s ARE nurses. We aren’t taking anything away from the RN, we just would like some respect. I was a CNA for 5 years before I became a NURSE, and I have nothing but respect for the CNA’s who work WITH me. Just because I am an LPN, I will not look down on my CNA’s. And just because I’m an LPN, does not make me NOT a nurse. We are all in this together. It’s RN’s like you, that we were warned about in school and it’s an RN like you that I will never become! Good day!

        • Good for you! The LPN’s I work with are wonderful, competent nurses! I will never bash a nurse because of their educational level. Good luck achieving your RN!

  30. There appears to be valid research on what makes patients feel more comfortable and confident when they are hospitalized. We should be paying more attention to patients’ preferences. In a nutshell, it should be about them not us! As nurses we should be talking and caring more about what is best for patients than our preferences about the color and style of our “working wardrobe”.

  31. I M glad to be out of the all white… however, I am all for color coding. As a nurse and as a patient it is so helpful to know who the nursing staff are and others also. And as nurses, think of the patient and families. How stressful to be in our hospitals with little to no control over anything- they have no understanding of the processes- we rush in their rooms and virtually demand they do our bidding- nighttime isn’t for sleeping as at least a member of nursing is going into the rooms every one to two hours- they have an illness that they now have to deal with and all of it added together is very stressful. As a nurse we are aware of or should be of our bodies reaction to stress. So if nurses are all in one color and the other disciplines are in their specific colors it can only be helpful to staff, nurses, physicians and our patients and families.

  32. I’ve been a nurse for 43 years. When I started, we wore starched whites, cap, white stockings and polished nursing shoes. When we stopped having to dress professionally and started wearing scrubs and tennis shoes, the quality of nurses decreased. I no longer see many nurses that actually care for their residents/patients or sometimes are even aware of what the medications are for that they are giving. When I see nursing instructors eating lunch with their students after clinicals, again I wonder where the professionalism went. I feel the quality of our nurses would return if we went back to whites. They made me proud to be a nurse.

    • I agree, Karen. I have been a nurse for 44 years now and started by getting a diploma from a, now rare, hospital school of nursing. I still remember the day when we were given caps with the black ribbon and how proud I was to wear it. I also remember my first white uniform with the 3/4 length sleeves, white hose and spotless white shoes. In those days, everyone new we were RN’s and no one had to ask. After working 2 years, I got my BSN. I did work in CCU, ED, and NICU and had my cap knocked off several times before I stopped wearing it. I could see the advantage of wearing scrubs and we wore what the hospital supplied putting them on when we arrived on the unit and taking them off at the end of the shift so they went directly into the hamper to be washed. With the scrubs there was confusion on the part of the patient and their families as to who was what but most people are used to seeing hospital personnel in scrubs now. However, there are many people who will see a RN in white with white hose and white shoes and have no doubt that person in a RN without question. I had one person who was standing in the line of a fast food place in front of me who turned and ask me if I was a nurse. When I answered, “yes,” I asked her how she new. Her response was that I was wearing all white. I was in all white but not a uniform, just casual clothes.

  33. I think it is an absolutely ridiculous practice. I work at a hospital that has mandated colors, and now is changing all of our colors again. Not only do we have to buy said special “antimicrobial” new scrubs from the hospital owned company, they also have to have the hospital logo embroidered on them. The hospital only provides one pair, period. Not one a year, but ONE. And they are over $50 per pair. I can tell you that patients do not pay attention to scrub colors or bold colored name tag with capital letters saying who we are. I am not sure tattooing our position on our forehead would even matter. I work in Peds and we are no longer allowed to wear Peds appropriate tops, because “there is no scientific evidence that patterned scrub tops make a difference in the pediatric population.” Which I can also tell you, after 13 years as a Peds nurse, is completely false. I can’t tell you how many times I have distracted a patient or instantly become their favorite just because I was wearing a ‘Frozen’ top or one with bugs or kittens on it. When you start providing all my scrubs *and* laundering them, you can then dictate to me what I am allowed to wear. As long as I am appropriate and professional, it should not be up to the employer what I wear.

    • Your experience engaging your patients with your theme scrubs sounds like the start of a great research project.
      In my practicw, I have not experienced patients or families recognizing staff roles because of the color scrubs we wear.

  34. There’s nothing wrong with any color scrub.
    My issue is some individuals don’t understand they shouldn’t wear patterned panties with the white scrubs.
    Thank you for informing me of you’re “Juicy” rear end, love of “Pink”, or your favorite cartoon character every time you bend over to pick up God only knows what.
    We’re professionals. If you’re required to wear white please choose appropriate undergarments with tanktops because no one wants to see your thin lace bra either.
    Yes, white is harder to keep clean and pit stains are always fun. If the facility is willing to pay for my white scrubs and clean them. Color doesn’t matter to me. As long as I’m clean, professional, respectful, and kind.

  35. I truly understand nurses (LPNs & RNs) who would prefer to choose their clothing having started out myself as a BSN RN in whites with a cap.

    Patients do have difficulty now identifying a nurse from all the different facility staff but a large print identification tag AND establishing a therapeutic relationship work. (Nursing 101) All the letters of appreciation prove that!

  36. When I first became a nurse (42 years ago) , white uniforms were the norm; this included all direct patient care persons – RN, LPN/LVN, Nurse Aids (didn’t have to be certified back then), Orderlies, etc. Dresses for women and white pants and shirts for men; unless you worked OR, L & D/Nursery- then you wore green or blue scrubs.
    It didn’t matter if you worked in a hospital or nursing home – You Wore White.
    I understand the different colors reasononing; and, it makes easier to get ready for work (which scrubs will I wear today?).
    Navy blue is the licensed uniform color when are I work. Thank heavens there are different styles out there. 😉
    In a nut shell I’m glad we are out of white uniforms.

  37. I had to do a paper on this subject in nursing school. I hated the white uniforms. I mostly hated the cap. I am tall and with the cap on , I was over 6′. It got stuck on everything.
    About color coded uniforms I think what would really help is big ID badges. When I was a patient I would always look for the Badges. It would be better if people just introduce themselves.

  38. I’ve been a nurse for over 40 years. So I do go back to when we wore all white, and we wore our caps. (And every nurse knew how to remove ink and blood from a white uniform! And probably can tell you a story about washing white uniforms with a pen!) And every patient, no matter what their age, could readily identify a “nurse”. I have worked in other countries, presently in a private surgical hospital, where our uniforms are black pants with a black zip-front, short sleeved tunic with an antique gold colored trim (no, not sparkly, just dark gold color). They look nice, and patients can identify us nurses. (PACU nurses wear scrubs, though). I’ve worked other places that have had us wearing navy blue pants with with tunic tops trimmed in navy – with the added bonus of button-on epilettes, again, signifying enrolled nurses (like US LPNs), senior and junior registered nurses. Again, making it easy enough to be identified as a nurse. I like looking a bit more professional! Personally, while scrubs are comfortable, I feel – and look – like I’m wearing pajamas to work.
    And I still have my cap – something I’m still proud of, and it represents a lot of hard work, plus a bond with my fellow nurses.
    No matter what I wear, though, it’s still the same profession.

  39. I am in an ambulatory setting but housed in a hospital. We are mandated color coding(nursing the color black). Interestingly most clients have said they do not like us in black.
    Everyone also wear badge backers with your job classifications.
    I am ok with the color coding just not black.

  40. I just wanted to comment about the colors. I work with pediatrics up to geriatrics. I don’t think that the color matters. But as someone replied about everyone being called a nurse even LPN, I am a LPN and I am a nurse. I am still licensed with the state. I don’t appreciate not being called a nurse.

  41. The hospital I work for went to a color coded system a few years ago, and as expected, was met with a lot of resistance, but we adapted, and it became a non-issue. Last month we were informed that there was going to be a change to the color for RN’s to navy blue from Caribbean blue. No big deal, right? However, we are also being mandated to buy a certain type of scrub, that can only be purchased through the hospital, and must have the hospital logo embroidered on it. Why? Because the hospital bought the company. And to top it off, they are expensive, at over $50/set. The hospital will purchase one set, but we have to buy all additional sets of scrubs. We wear name tags with a large RN hang tag. Shouldn’t that be enough identification?

  42. Very interesting comments. My overarching opinion is that patients, families, physicians, as well as the rest of the care givers in the hospital all need to be able to identify the professional nurse in order to direct their questions, comments & concerns, and plan of care. I too came from white uniforms, white hose, white oxfords, caps, and a nice gold pin with my (whole) name and credentials. Needless to say THAT is all gone – good or bad. The bottom line was that no one was happy not being able to identify who they were approaching. It is a waste of time to have to approach 3 different people to find the right person. I agree that it is a patient satisfier to know with whom they are speaking. Additionally, I have had many different people in scrubs tell me they ‘are a nurse’ and then find out they are a patient care assistant, LPN or MA etc. A lot has changed in my 45 years as a Registered Nurse, some for the good, some not so good – but I never minded white uniforms and caps. I was one of the last to give up my cap. I was, and currently am proud of my profession and professional contributions. The opinions voices are relative to inpatient facilities as I have not experienced home care.

    • While I understand and agree with color coded positions, I have to ask what a nurse is in your thoughts. An LPN is as much, if not more of a nurse than an RN. So when someone ask where’s the nurse and an LPN shows up they indeed are a licensed nurse! Having been an LPN for 9 years I have more experience and better critical thinking skills than 80% of my RN cohorts who were not LPNs prior. I also must add that my knowledge on medication including how they work and interact is on point! Also if you or your family need CPR which nurse do you want to help you RN, LPN, or CNA? So the next time you discuss a nurse don’t forget the LPNs. It’s just like saying a diploma nurse isn’t a nurse because they don’t hold a BSN or MSN.

      • Sorry you are offended that you are not considered a registered nurse, however you indeed do not have a RN degree nor can you apply for a RN position. So there is indeed a difference in the between a LPN and an RN. It has to do with the level of schooling. Please feel free to go back to school and get your RN degree but stop calling yourself a RN as you are not.

      • I think Barbara is referring to the Registered Nurse. People want to talk to them as opposed to a LPN because, ya know, they are the ones who can call the doctor’s and have to sign off on the LPN’s work and are ultimately responsible if crap hits the fan with one of your patients.
        I appreciate LPN’s. I think they do a fantastic job and are very helpful and DO know their stuff. But personally, I would rather just have my patients and not have to worry about doing initial assessments, or IV pushes for someone else. AGAIN, it isn’t that you don’t know what you are doing. You are, however, limited in your scope of practice.
        Would you rather talk to a Resident about your patient or an Attending? LPN or RN?

  43. Hello-
    Although I agree with much of what has been said about having options, professionalism, and laundry issues, I whole-heartedly agree with the benefit of easily recognizing the caregiver that enters your patient room.
    I have been a nurse for 32 years and have worked in a variety of settings. Although it is ‘old school’ there is a real importance in unified colors. My health system mandates bedside nurses to be in white. This was initially met with some resistance, but has proven to be exceptionally helpful to our patients.
    There is some variation in the specialty units across the system (psych, peds, oncology, outpatient surgery) but this has overall brought a feeling of great unity and professionalism.

  44. Color coded care is a great idea. Have the bright colors, but with the code color primary. For example if an RN is coded the color navy blue, match the top and/ or jacket to navy pants using colorful tops with a navy scrub jacket, or navy scubs with a colorful jacket. Let’s not let the color code care take the place of the introduction to the patient.

  45. After accompanying my wife through a week long stay in a busy Medical Center,
    I can truthfully say that anything that can be done to easily identify the role of the person who enters the patient’s door is helpful and important, but for sure a badge and a quick introduction at the beginning of the shift was not enough. There are so many barriers: eyeglasses not on, groggy from medication, unclear thinking from illness, sheer volume and variety of people who walk in … But it was the Nurse she always wanted to see.

  46. I have found that even WITH color coded scrubs, most patients try to call everyone a nurse, just because they are wearing scrubs. No matter the color. My own elderly family members doing this was where I first noticed it, but in talking to people who have been patients recently, this persists. It leads to a lot of frustration – recently, one relative has been livid his entire hospital/rehab stay because he asks anyone in scrubs a question, or demands something of them. In many cases, even introducing yourself and stating your role and responsibility doesn’t help a lot… but that’s not to say we shouldn’t do it! It is only polite. I am NOT a fan of color coding by function – I actually don’t think it helps patients, who are not there long enough to realize that maroon is dietary and bright blue is respiratory, etc. We work hard, and it has always made me feel better to use favorite prints and colors to lift my mood. Introductions, perhaps color coded nametags (although subject to same issue as above) with LARGE print for the title… and persistence. I hated white uniforms, being made to wear ceil blue for years was ridiculous… and I guarantee you that whomever picks the mandated color for a particular group is NOT going to pick the color that makes everyone in that group feel good about themselves. One place I worked put a whole unit in gray scrubs… why would you DO that? Patients have always commented on my scrub tops, and some of the quirky patterns I wore when I worked in an inpatient environment – they enjoyed them, and so did I. Looking like one of the herd is demoralizing, and tends to get everyone judged the same if a patient has a bad experience with one member of the group.

    • I agree. They will still be confused even with matching colors. And if we do say navy for RNs but can still use not solid colored tops, they are not going to notice that the base color is navy and means RN. There is no easy answer.

      • Previously as a patient, I had no idea who was and wasn’t a nurse. Many had name badges that were facing backward, so one was not able to read the person’s title. If a hospital uses a color code system, them please give the patient on admission a pamphlet with the designation of each colored uniform.

  47. I am old school and proud to wear white uniform and cap. Today like everything else things have changed. Good, Bad or indifferent. I remember my Dad at age 99 state that he did not know who was a nurse coming in and out of his room because of different uniforms colors and no caps. I had to agree with him. Today, colors are great especially for different places ex.- PEDS, PYSCH, ETC.. I still am proud of my cap and what it stands for and would like to wear it with or without color uniforms. Know some think a bother to wear a cap, but I earned it and proud of it. I remember when I was a little girl and looked up to my Mother in her starched uniform and beautiful nurses cap wanted to be liked that when got older. Like anything else we shouldn’t lose what nursing is all about and how nurses should stand out as people /patients look to us.

  48. I don’t mind a specific color for each specific groups but white should never be worn !!! It yellows with well water stains and is see though ! It is 2018 we should at Least have a say and vote with what we wear!! Also we spend more money on whites to try and look somewhat clean!!!

  49. I’ve been a nurse for a long time . When I was hospitalized I had no idea who was who . Everyone was in scrubs . It’s hard on the patients . Where I work now we just have color coded pants, you can wear any type of top . I’m proud of who I am and I want people to know I am an RN and now an APN . I worked hard for that title . So color coded uniforms makes the patients happy and should make the nurses happy

  50. I work in an inpatient hospice unit that is affiliated with a large hospital system. We were made fairly recently to go to the “all coded color system” like the hospital. They said it was because of the new term of the decade “SYSTEMNESS” 😞😬😞.
    Needless to say us nurses and ancillary staff were not happy. My patients and visitors would frequently comment about how they liked my uniform. Now all of us havt to look the same…. even tho at our free standing unit there are only two major areas… the patient techs and the nurses.
    SO to help standout in the crowd… I have collected individual and fun pins to wear.
    But as u can tell I am disgruntled. 😬😟

  51. I started nursing with all white uniforms , shoes & those awful caps. Later progressed to lots of bright colors & prints. All my patients loved them. Then I moved to Fl. & had to wear solid navy blue or white. Boring. Patients really do appreciate bright colors in a stressful place like the ER.

  52. I came out of the starched uniform, hose, cap, white oxford era, but after 54 yr in nursing (and still counting!) I find that I can’t tell who’s who by checking name tags. Too many just say “Mary” or whatever. I actually ask the “nurse” in my doctor’s office, “Are you a Medical assistant?”
    So I would welcome color coded scrub uniforms so our patients could easily identify us.

  53. What I find help the patient to identify us is not only introducing ourselves to the patients but a name badge. I just started working at a new hospital and each department has a distinct color. I could not remember the colors and what department wore what but a quick look at their badge with name and dept applied actually helped. P.S. I am all for the going back to white however as a child I remember being freaked out by the sight of a lady in white uniform. ( They represented pain, innoculations, etc.)

  54. I believe we have lost that little part of courtesy of introducing ourselves, and KNOCKING on the door before entering the room. With all the high tech the personal side of our profession seems to be dwindling. With that being said I like the fact that patients and visitors know you are a staff person by the scrub. It doesn’t matter what the color but you are safe in asking someone in a scrub for information. They will usually point you in the right direction or inform you where you can get the information. For patients seeing that scrub walk into the room they know something is about to happen, and they have someone they can ask a question to. I love the idea of scrubs for everyone.

  55. I began my career in the white uniform, which transitioned to one color scrubs, then street clothes for a period, and now a mandated white shirt black pants.
    There are lots of arguments about what LOOKS professional, and whats best for patients. Why have we lost the respectful practise of introducing ourselves, and taking a minute to explain what they can expect from us? That one minute shows concern for who the patient is, respect for thier needs and expectations, and also respect for thier space. Just because they have consented to a hospital admission doesn’t mean that anyone can walk in and do or say what they want. I think we need to make that minute, and patients, where possible, need to step upto the plate and demand /expect that respect. Is it really what we wear and how we look? I think not. It’s about how we behave. Honestly.

  56. I have been on both sides and although making certain jobs wear a specific color may depress our personal style, it truly does help the patients identify who they are talking too. I am not a fan of all white, for many reasons, but uniform colors are a smart organizational trick.

  57. I believe it makes for happier patients to see the brighter colors. We as health care staff should always introduce our self to the patient for proper identification, that way they know what that individuals position is. Granted during a given hospital stay there are a lot of healthcare personnel that come into a patients room.

  58. I agree, when multiple folks enter your room, and there is no consistency in uniform/colors – I become upset if what I requested was a nurse. I know that no one working now in a hospital wants to go back to white uniforms -and Caps – I would love to see that as a patient. Perhaps only on med/surg floors, but that is usually where us old fogies are.

  59. In surgery it was easy, you wore the teal scrubs in the laundered bins, period. Then years of dialysis where we see the patients 3 days a week usually and they LOVED the expression of our personalities through our scrubs because sitting for 3-4 hours in a drab painted unit can get boring in a hurry apparently! Then we were bought out by another company who demanded we all begin wearing their horribly fitting and monotone dark colored scrubs (they did not paint the unit to at least be brighter LOL). We were all dumbfounded when the patients raised such a fuss about not seeing the colorful scrubs expressing our selves that the company actually allowed our unit to go back to the way it was! I now work as a Home Health Case Manager and have noticed many of my sickest patients react better to my colorful prints or colors than the few darker ones, even on the pain scale which I have watched reactions for in my own info gathering. So, although we must do what each company wants the bottom line is depending on what your specialty is I have found the bright colors can at least help a person with the blues feel a bit better and give you something to start a conversation. I had to wear a nice shiny name tag with every job and always stated “Hello I am your Nurse today”….

    • Have been a nurse for over 10 years and white for me is the best color for nurses. This leaves the patient less confused, most patients shared their white preferred colors and said old school for nurses is a better option, I totally agree.

      Rose Nelson, RN, PA


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