Nurse Challenges Stereotype Guinness World Records Rules – and Wins

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Jessica Anderson entered the London Marathon to break the Guinness World Record for running a marathon dressed as a nurse. In the end, she not only broke the record but also scored a huge win in addressing outdated nursing stereotypes.

GWR rejects record

Anderson, a nurse working in the acute admission unit at Royal Hospital London, decided to run in her scrubs – the uniform which she wears every day. She was aware of the GWR rules for a nurse’s uniform but considered them outdated.

She broke the world record for the category in a time of 3h 8m 22s, beating the 2015 world record by 35 seconds. Anderson was, however, informed that her record application had been rejected because she wasn’t wearing a dress.

She asked GWR to reconsider but they informed her that, according to the rules, a nurse’s uniform must be a blue or white dress, a pinafore apron, and a traditional nurse’s cap. They said that scrubs were too close to the uniform for doctors.

“I get that it’s supposed to be a fun thing but their definition is just so outdated,” Anderson explained to Runners World. “Some of the nurses I work with do wear dresses but mostly we wear scrubs or a tunic and trousers. I’ve certainly never seen a male nurse wearing a dress to work.”

#WhatNursesWear

A soon as it hit the headlines, the situation surrounding Anderson’s record sparked controversy and an outcry from nurses.

#WhatNursesWear trended on social media with nurses posting photographs of themselves in their uniforms. They also expressed outrage over the outdated and sexist GWR dress code. Not, of course, without some typical nurses humor thrown in.

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Within days after the social movement erupted GWR announced that Anderson would, after all, be awarded the Guinness World Record title of fastest runner in a nurse’s uniform.

GWR Guidelines Changed

“Over the weekend it has become quite clear to Guinness World Records that our guidelines for the fastest marathon wearing a nurse’s uniform were outdated, incorrect, and reflected a stereotype we do not in any way wish to perpetuate,” wrote Samantha Fay, GWR Senior Vice President in a press statement. “Guinness World Records is absolutely committed to ensuring we uphold the highest standards of equality and inclusiveness. Therefore, we unreservedly apologize and accept full responsibility for the mishandling of Jessica Anderson’s application.”

The organization further announced that fancy dress would no longer be allowed in the nurse uniform category. GWR will also be reviewing all their marathon titles to make sure that no costumes were allowed that show disrespect for any profession or subject.

Nurses do have a voice

Anderson not only achieved a World Record Title but also raised over £5000 for Barts Charity with her run. Most importantly, by her refusal to bow to the stereotype, she demonstrated that nurses can bring change when they stand up for their beliefs.

“We were excited to see that social movement and see this new outcome,” Liz Stokes, Director of the ANA Center for Ethics and Human Rights, told Fox News. She explained that much has changed in nursing, not only the uniforms. The conversation sparked by the Anderson controversy can help to break down stereotypes but there is still much to be done.

Frieda Paton is a registered nurse with a Master’s degree in nursing education. Her passion for nursing education, nursing issues and advocacy for the profession were ignited while she worked as an education officer, and later editor, at a national nurses’ association. This passion, together with interest in health and wellness education since her student days, stayed with her throughout her further career as a nurse educator and occupational health nurse. Having reached retirement age, she continues to contribute to the profession as a full-time freelance writer. In the news and feature articles she writes for Nurseslabs, she hopes to inspire nursing students and nurses on the job to reflect on the trends and issues that affect their profession and communities - and play their part in advocacy wherever they find themselves.

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