I’m not one to pay attention to rumors in the workplace until they have been confirmed, but the scuttlebutt at my institution is that our Chief Nursing Officer would like to see all nursing staff to begin wearing all-white uniforms. I’ve heard that one of the reasons behind this is that there is too much confusion from patients about who’s who among hospital employees. Nurse techs, unit secretaries, and even housekeepers all wear nursing-type scrubs, and sometimes the people we are serving don’t actually know which of the people who are coming in and out of their rooms is their nurse.
I’m conflicted about this--for one, I don’t particularly want to go out and buy an entire new work wardrobe. I just had to do this recently when I went from an office setting back to bedside nursing. Secondly, I know there are some folks who take comfort in seeing a nurse wearing whites: to them, it might seem more professional or it might fit more with what their vision of how a nurse should look BUT there are also those people who truly have “white coat syndrome” and the sight of someone coming at them dressed head to toe in white could make their blood pressure skyrocket!
Lastly, I think one of the main reasons I am reluctant is the whole practicality issue. How is it going to look if we do move in this direction? As neat as a freshly pressed white uniform might look in a photograph, it might not look the same in real life. I’m 31, and I think a lot of people my age and younger don’t own an iron nor do they care to buy one, and I’m not sure how it would look if someone didn’t wear wrinkle-free whites. There is always that argument about showing stains, too. There are at least seven bodily fluids that OSHA recognizes, I think, and I’m pretty sure most of them are not clear. Although, I think in my years of bedside nursing I’ve only had to change my scrubs at work two or three times due to getting emesis or urine on my shoe…but I bet that number would shoot up dramatically if I started wearing all white. It’s just the way that sort of thing goes. And then there are those things that maybe administrators who are, shall we say, out of touch with how things actually work out on nursing units might not have thought about: those nurses who wear undergarments that may not look (ahem) appropriate under white slacks. I’m not saying people do it on purpose. Maybe they forgot they were wearing hot pink underwear when they put on their nursing pants at 5:30 in the morning after being exhausted from a 13-14 hour shift the day before!
I go back and forth. I know it can look awfully nice, and everyone identifies white uniforms with nurses. When I graduated nursing school, I wore a white scrub dress for my pinning ceremony. And me being a frugal, no-nonsense kind of gal, I thought I should at least get some more use out of the thing. I didn’t want it to be like a bridesmaid dress that you spend tons of money on, only to hang in the back of a closet for decades. I wore it to work a few times, and got lots of compliments…particularly from elderly gentlemen, who said it was nice to see nurses still dress like they did in the old days. Of course after spending a 12 hour shift climbing up on beds to pull people over from a stretcher, or kneeling down to empty a catheter, I said “That’s the end of THAT!” So now, it is folded up in a box in my closet. And two kids later, I wish I could still fit into it…maybe someday.
At the end of the day, I’m still ambivalent about how I feel about the idea of wearing all white scrubs. In college, I changed my major about 4 times before becoming a nurse. The first of those 4 was art education. I like to express my creativity and individuality, and being forced to wear a certain color seems like kind of a bummer…I guess that’s why they call them “uniforms,” though. I know we should do what’s best for the patient. But it’s still unclear to me whether this is really best or not.
I’m curious about what other nurses think: have you done this at your institution? If you were told you had to wear all white, all the time, would you like it? Or not?