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Nursing Uniforms: Playful or Professional?

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By Kristen Smith, R.N.

Uniforms are a staple for any professional workplace. But, in the area of healthcare, where professionalism is mandatory, can uniforms be too professional? Most hospitals require solid-colored scrubs, a different color for every interdisciplinary team. For example, respiratory therapists may wear black, nurses: galaxy blue and nurse aides: navy blue. To some, this may be professional, but, to others, could it be intimidating?

Solid-colored uniforms


Some people may say that solid-colored uniforms are preferable. The workplace presents a united front. Patients can recognize a nurse before reading a work badge, simply by identifying the person by color. On the other hand, maybe we look like a massive team of robots–not to be identified as individual people. Sometimes, we feel that way; just a hard worker in a uniform. Someone who is stripped of anything that makes him/her human.

In some areas, uniformity could be intimidating to patients. Sort of a “white coat syndrome.” For example, children may find the freshly starched, solid-colored uniforms to be frightening. In other areas, uniformity could be comforting, such as, for the confused elderly. A routine may be needed. An elderly confused patient may only take medications from an employee wearing a specific color, after years of becoming familiar with that color.

Playful uniforms


Sometimes, all it takes is a little personality to make a person comfortable. In the case of children, a brightly colored uniform with the child’s favorite cartoon character or superhero on them will make the hospital and staff seem not so scary. Cheerful uniforms put patients at ease when they are experiencing maybe the scariest moment of their lives. But, on the other hand, uniforms of varied colors and designs can look chaotic and may even cause patients distress and confusion.

So what is the right choice? Should our focus be professionalism or on what is best for the patient? Are the two, one in the same? What is your opinion on uniforms? Does your place of work enforce a strict dress code?

I am a full-time registered nurse, wife and new mom. I've recently started writing part-time and I love it! My family is my life. I enjoy spending time with them in my free time.

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