Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Nurses: Uniforms and Scrubs

Above is the old image of a nurse - female, white uniform and cap.  Nurses, of course, haven't looked like that for a long time now.  In the United States and the UK, for example, about 10 per cent of nurses are male.  A 2013 study for the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the number of males in the profession has more than tripled since the 1970s.

An increasing number on males are becoming nurses

The image of nurses has undergone a major transformation over the years.  Think of  Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), the founder of modern nursing, or Cherry Ames, the main character in a series hospital mystery novels published between 1943 and 1968.  Nightingale and the fictional Cherry Ames, bear scant resemblance to today's nurses. Although today's nurses are just as dedicated, they certainly have a different appearance.

Florence Nighingale

Cherry Anes

It is highly unlikely that nurses are ever going to revert to wearing all-white uniforms. The main reason is that most nurses don't want to wear the traditional uniforms. They argue that white uniforms stain more easily and are more expensive to clean.  In addition, they are not suited to the increasing number of males in the nursing profession. Scrubs are preferred because they are considered more comfortable and more practical.

However, the absence of white uniforms has created some difficulty and also some discombobulation. Identifying nurses has become far more problematic for hospital patients and visitors  It is not often easy to distinguish them from doctors, lab technicians and other medical personnel in hospitals.  They all seem to be wearing scrubs. Perplexed patients are frequently left wondering which person in scrubs is a nurse.  I underwent a surgical procedure last summer and found it quite a challenge to identify the nurses.

Here is my point.  In order to avoid confusion, there should be a clearer way to identify and distinguish nurses.  Name tags don't really solve the problem.  They are not easy to read from a distance, especially for those of us with poor eyesight.  It is evident that nurses require some type of identifying feature, or perhaps they could wear comfortable non-white uniforms.  There has to be a better way.

- Joanne