Our Defining Uniforms – Yesterday, Today, And Tomorrow

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


“Clothes make the man” (or woman). I, for one, can’t wrap my mind around the concept. But whether I like it or not the ‘clothing’ of a nurse has definitely ‘made’ them.

What other profession out there can solely be recognized by a uniform? I mean the word/term ‘nurse’ and its profession conjures up all those wonderful images of the traditional white uniform, the hat, the skirt, the white pantyhose, the white shoes, etc.

Before I became a nurse I sheepishly equated nurses/nursing to good ole’ Nurse Ratched (sorry!).

Uniforms of old

Isn’t it funny how in the beginning of our profession, the uniform was designed to signify and separate us from the un-trained? In the first years of Flo’s nursing school, the uniform communicated respect and formal ‘training’. Centuries later the uniform still does that very thing — with the added flare of controversy (the debate of color coded care).

Uniforms today – fit and function (finally!)

Over the years (thankfully) the ‘style’ of our uniform has definitely evolved to meet the needs of our evolving responsibilities and diversity. The ‘fit and function’ of the original left a lot to be desired. These days the ‘fit and function’ of my scrubs are THE reason I wear them. With the million and one things we do every day I need my uniform to ‘stand the test’ so to say. Yes, I’m happy to report I never had to wear a skirt. Although as a nursing student I DID have to wear an all white uniform! I was a walking Q-tip (with my shiny bald head)! Needless to say, I vowed to never wear all white again.

Uniforms tomorrow can scrubs do it all?

It begs the question: What will the uniform of the future bring us? I, for one, would like to see the ‘fit and function’ part of our scrubs taken to a new level.

  1. How about a nursing uniform that doubles as a protective gown (for all those patients in precautions)? Could you imagine the amount of time and energy we could save if something was devised that eliminated the ‘gowning up’ procedure??
  2. Some sort of cool stain-resistant feature would be worth it’s weight in gold. Hey, maybe we should consult NASA?
  3. Heck, maybe even extend it a little further. What if we had a pair of scrubs that worked as a protective gown for our ‘precaution’ patients, but then somehow had a built-in set of ‘gloves’???

Whoa. Now that would be awesome (OK, so I’m a sci-fi fan – how’d you guess).

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

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Johnny Walker
3 years ago

When I graduated nursing school, the entire class was adorned in white. Over the years (most of which was spent in ICU or ER), I know how impractical a white uniform is in those areas (especially now, where peroxide isn’t ubiquitous throughout the hospital to take care of those blood stains). I took greater pride in my school graduation pin than in wearing whites. Though, having a military background, I kept my whites essentially as a “dress uniform” for those occasional events that command the wearing of professional wear (they don’t happen often, but…). The reality is, with the expansion… Read more »

Patricia Acevedo,RN,BSN
3 years ago

It is really sad to hear people referring to “the nurse” to anyone who wears scrubs. As a home care Clinical Coordinator, I have noticed that private house keeping companies are now using scrubs as their uniform. Patients are not just forgetful, but now almost anyone that walks in a patient’s home could be wearing scrubs making it even more difficult for them to define who the nurse is. The white uniform still respected and easily identifies the nurse. It is an icon of nursing. Wearing the white uniform to me is wearing my PRIDE. The white uniform is a… Read more »

3 years ago

When I am in the hospital or a doctor’s office as a patient, I cannot identify among my caregivers who is an RN, who is an LPN, who is an nursing assistant. And other ancillary personnel often wear scrubs. If they have nametags on, they are very small. And many wear lanyards with their ID on it: those have REALLY small print and are often flipped over with the back not the front showing. Most of the staff do not introduce themselves: they do not give their name nor do they state what their work status is. I have started… Read more »

3 years ago

The director of our RN program hated wearing her cap, and she mercifully didn’t make us wear one. Unfortunately, we still got stuck wearing all white. She said the cap got in the way too much during hands on patient care. I loved wearing scrubs when I did ER and ICU bedside nursing. I always made it a point to introduce myself as my patients’ nurse. So they never had a problem knowing who I was. And since nursing is no longer a women’s profession, it’s kind of silly to only have female nurses wear the cap and not the… Read more »

Myra Cook
3 years ago

In our hospital, nurses wear all white, nurse assistants wear green, and respiratory therapist wear blue. It is professional and delineated the different roles well. This helps patients/families know who is in their room (which our patients appreciate). As a nurses for 20 years, I think nurses wearing white reflects professionalism, prestige, and uniformity. I think all hospital should go back to this.

Lisa Hardee
3 years ago

This is so nostalgic and I love it. I worked so hard to earn that cap and the right to wear all white uniforms. I think you can still get Clinics white shoes – just remember to wash the shoelaces every once in a while. It is a shame that the profession has become so sloppy. And it is a bigger shame that the patients will say “but the nurse told me ….” when, in fact, that was a housekeeper. Because there is no identity hints, it is easy to get confused. The nursing role has changed over the decades… Read more »

Sondra Moylan
3 years ago

I miss seeing the NURSE in her uniform – including the cap (not hat). When being a patient, it is very disheartening to not now who is in your room.

Penelope Brown
4 years ago

The loss of professional recognition related to the laxity of today’s scrubs is very sad. In my era (I am a working case manager in an acute hospital) no one knows who is the Real Nurse. RNs used to take pride in their position. We were respected. Maybe we should go back to our origins. I’m proud of my special place in the health care world. Maybe it’s time for us to delineate ourselves again

Annie Kawasaki
4 years ago

Scrubs that stay up. What a concept. How about scrubs that detect your body temperature and adjust to cool you off or warm you up

5 years ago

I would settle for a pair of scrub pants that would stay up during my shift! Dare to dream. 🙂