Do You Miss Nursing Uniforms?

Nursing Uniform

Do you miss the days of starched white uniforms and starched white nursing caps? Do you think nurses are more professional when they are dressed in all white? Do you think the public saw nurses differently when we wore nursing uniforms?

I certainly did not like my student nurse uniform. I thought it was very unattractive. When I had to race from the hospital after doing a clinical to a class on campus I thought my nursing uniform made me stand out awkwardly. However, I did feel very proud to put on my all white uniform after graduating and walking onto the medical surgical floor.

Then there is that starched white cap! While I felt excitement each year when I could add a new black stripe to the corner of my cap, it certainly had its drawbacks. There was also the thrill of being able to remove those stripes from the corner and placing the long, thin, black stripe across the bottom of that cap. The drawback was I always struggled to find an attractive way to where that cap on my head and to keep it on for the entire shift.

Even at the beginning of the nursing profession nurses found nursing uniforms to be ugly and poor fitting garments. Dating back to the mid-1800s nurses going to Crimea were required by Florence Nightingale to wear identical uniforms. Ms. Nightingale hoped that the dreadful uniforms would discourage untoward advances from the soldiers. Nurses at that time wore a gray dress, gray jacket, simple cap, and a short cape.

At the time it was thought that wearing such a hideous uniform was a necessary evil since women were entering a male-dominated workforce for the first time. It was felt that these nurses needed to look unattractive. Not only were nurses entering a male-dominated area, but they were engaging in duties that involved touching male soldiers in intimate ways.

One of the advantages of my student nurse uniform was the apron that was button to the front of the blue dress. This apron buttoned at the shoulders, covered the length of the front of the dress, and tied in back. The apron was not attached until arriving at the clinical site and more importantly was removed when clinicals were over. The dress could be worn to the grocery store, library, or to class but the part of the uniform that came in contact with the patient and the myriad of bacteria and germs was removed and washed. The apron was not worn outside the hospital setting.

So while I see some cleanliness advantages and the importance of not spreading hospital germs and anti-biotic resistant bugs into the community, I am not sad to see the required weight uniform and starched white cap become a thing of the past.