The vision in white … clean, starched, competent and in charge.

Few will argue that this describes our historical vision of the nurse. For most of us over the age of 30, crisply starched white nursing uniforms are the representation of the years of study and clinical training that is necessary to obtain a nursing license. It is the representation of knowledge and competency and this vision in white works to comfort and allay fears for those in need of nursing care in the hospital.

However, this iconic image is not without drawbacks. The austere, starched white uniform can be intimidating to some patients, especially in the pediatric units where it has been found that cheerful colors and child-oriented prints create a friendlier atmosphere that promotes physical healing and emotional well-being.

Another negative aspect of wearing a neatly pressed fitted white nursing dress, white pantyhose, and a starched cap is the lack of functionality in the workplace. Patient care requires that nurses be able to bend, stretch, lift and generally work among the various pieces of medical equipment squeezed into small patient rooms. Bending to retrieve a stripped bandage scissor that slides under the bed opens the nurse in a dress to “unwanted exposure”. Keeping a breastfeeding cap on the head while working is a feat that fully defeats the age-old function of the bobby pin. In light of these problems it was only natural that nursing uniforms underwent a significant change in the 1980's. Uniform design focused on both comfort and function enabling nurses to work long shifts more comfortable and efficiently

The Increase in Popularity of Uniform Scrubs

In the 1980's traditional nursing uniforms permanently saved way to uniform scrubs. Originally worn solely in the operating room, uniform scrubs found their way into all areas of hospital nursing, and into doctor and dental offices. Companies such as Cherokee Scrubs and Dickies Scrubs expanded the unisex scrub into a uniform scrub line with figure flattering styles for all body shapes. And that, the modern era of uniform scrubs began.

Originally, uniform scrubs were boxy unisex pants and tops. Colors were limited to blue, green and white. The feel was pure comfort; the look was less than flattering to most females who had hips that were anything but straight and narrow. And if you happened to be a size XS female you had other challenges, such as pants that were a foot too long with a crotch that hung between your knees and a top which V-neck exposed your navel. What WAS needed were uniform scrubs that flattered the female figure.

Scrub Shirts and Tops

The most widely used uniform scrubs garment is the scrub top. Scrub tops are generally straight cut tunic style tops that are worn either tucked into scrub pants or on the outside. Scrub tops are designed with double seaming and limited fashion details so that there are few places where dirt or bacteria can become trapped, thus becoming an important part of infection control in a health care facility. The material of scrub tops is often treated with antimicrobial agents to prevent staining or bacterial growth. Made from either 100% cotton or a 65/35 polycotton blended fabric, uniform scrubs are easily washed in hot water to remove bacteria and other substances that collect on clothing during the work shift. Scrub tops are now available in a wide range of colors, prints and sizes. each hospital and health centers have their own rules and regulations that establish exactly what color and style of scrub tops their particular nurseries can wear to work.

Scrub Jackets or Warm-Up Jackets

In addition to scrub tops, many nurses combat the coolness of hospitals by wearing scrub jackets or warm-up jackets as a part of their uniform. These jackets are designed to be utilized as a cover-up over scrub tops and have the same design, antimicrobial, and washing advantages as scrub tops. Scrub jackets are designed with no lapel, have two large pockets, and knit cuffs Large front pockets hold stethoscopes, notebooks, pens, and scissors. Scrub jackets are available in colors and prints to fashionably coordinate with scrub tops.

Scrub Pants

The original scrub pant was a loose-fitting unisex pant with a drawstring waist. They are lightweight enough to remain comfortable during work but still provide the necessary protection needed against potentially infectious materials. In order to accommodate the diverse body styles of the nursing community scrub pants added elastic waists, petite and tall lengths, and an increased size range that extended from XS to 5XL. As uniform scrubs tuned into the fashion industry, low-rise and cargo pants were born. Also, like scrub shirts and jackets, scrub pants are offered in a variety of different colors and prints, allowing them to be matched or contrasted to the other parts of the uniform.

Nursing Shoes

It is important that nurses look after themselves and their feet, as they can suffer from the effects of a very demanding physical job. It is extremely important to wear nursing shoes that are comfortable and practical. While it is impossible to eliminate the long work shifts or change flooring materials, it is possible to assuage body fatigue by wearing properly fitting nursing shoes that are constructed with a comfortable, supportive foot bed. These shoes should fit the foot properly to provide the necessary support and prevent foot problems such as blisters and corn.

Today, nursing shoes come in a variety of styles in slip on and tie styles. Anti-microbial treatments are also used on the inner soles greatly reducing the buildup of odor causing bacteria. Clogs have gained in popularity and are available in leather and washable synthetic materials. They are extremely light-weight can easily be slipped on and off.

The world of nursing uniforms is characterized by color, function and comfort. Uniform scrubs have taken over as the uniform of choice and are found in almost every department of the hospital. Today's nurse can work comfortably and efficiently thanks to the practical changes in nursing uniforms and nursing shoes.