DOs and DON’Ts for mixing street clothes with scrubs

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“Help! My hospital cranks the air conditioning way too high!” writes one nurse from Florida, while another Minnesota-based nurse emails, “There are corridors in my office where I swear there is no heat at all. I freeze from October until May!”

Whatever the climate outside, sometimes scrubs alone just won’t cut it – we need ways to stay warmer at work. This usually means adding a layer on top of or underneath scrubs. This may seem simple, but layering incorrectly could mean:

  • Running afoul of your employer’s dress code
  • Looking like a fashion disaster
  • Turning a practical outfit into one that makes work more difficult.

Here are some wardrobe dos and don’ts to guide you through the winter months.

DON’T Confuse Patients About Your Profession
Wearing a regular sweater over your scrubs top can be a problem for a couple of reasons. First, it completely covers up your uniform top. This makes it impossible for patients to tell that you’re a nurse if you’re seated behind a desk or standing behind a nurse’s station. They may assume you’re part of the administrative office staff since you appear to be wearing business apparel.

Second, sweaters typically aren’t something you want to launder every day—especially in hot water. Many sweater textiles require special handling so they don’t shrink or become misshapen. Others can be machine washed and dried, but they will quickly develop pills. If you don’t want your sweaters to meet an untimely end, don’t wear them over scrubs!

What about the sweater’s comfy cousin—the sweatshirt? Unfortunately, sweatshirts are never appropriate work attire unless you’re a fitness trainer running an outdoor boot camp on a chilly day. These tops also don’t provide the many pockets you’ll need to hold all your accessories during a normal shift. You don’t want to put everything in your scrubs pockets under the sweatshirt and keep hiking up the hem to get at what you need. That just looks weird.


DO Add Warmth with Nursing Outerwear
Choose a scrubs warm-up jacket that matches or complements your scrubs. The zipper or button front can be fastened or left open, depending on how cozy you need to feel. These nursing jackets typically have plenty of pocket room. Best of all, they look like part of your uniform rather than office wear or exercise clothing.

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One Response to DOs and DON’Ts for mixing street clothes with scrubs

  1. Abby Student

    I just wanted to mention that some nurses wear long sleeve t-shirts under their uniforms for religious reasons. While it makes sense to get a t-shirt the color of your uniform, check with your institution first. Some only allow white or black t-shirts. Also, make sure that your workplace knows about any special dresscode requirements you have. At my school, I needed to get specific permission to wear a skirt and to wear a t-shirt under the uniform.