Yes, I’m the student nurse…all in white
No, no… I ‘m not talking about wedding gowns or spring dresses. I’m talking about the super starchy, pressed and polished white uniforms we’ve all been instructed to wear. There’s been a lot of talk about nursing uniforms lately, and so I thought I would throw in my two cents.
I’m sort of torn. Of course, I took the advice we learned from orientation and bought a button down top (in case you get dirty) and extra large pockets (for all the odds and ends we shove into them). The top is a little loose for comfort (and better pocket use), and with my school patch on the left sleeve I look like ::superhero voice:: STUDENT NURSE – soon to be healer of the sick!
Ok, so I don’t really think looking like the Michelin Tire man is all that great, but you know, we’re not in a beauty contest, so I will over look that. I do understand the need for students to be identifiable, to stand out when there’s an emergency, and to be easily differentiated from the rest of the staff. However – maybe it’s just me, but I feel like when I wear my uniform it’s like having “CAUTION – STUDENT” written all over my face.
I actually didn’t really notice the way I was treated differently in white scrubs until I was allowed to wear colored scrubs during our pediatric rotation. Obviously, white’s a bit sterile and scary to kids, so we were able to don whatever colors or patterns we wanted (a super exciting moment!). But WOW – what a difference.
On my first day in teal colored scrubs, I walked in, introduced myself as a student nurse, and was treated with more respect than in the previous year of rotations. The parents felt comfortable talking with me, the kids weren’t afraid, but the biggest, most recognizable difference was the attitudes of the staff members. I felt like we were suddenly treated as part of the team, not as “just some student.”
We were asked opinions about care and not just utilized as someone who could do the dirty work (as it’s seemed we were labeled in other hospitals). Granted, a lot might have to do with quality of care at the hospital, but I’m not convinced that the attitudes toward us students would have been the same had I been wearing my crisp white uniform. I think that as long as we inform our patients and staff that yes, we are students and we’re here to learn, we don’t need to be more identifiable than anyone else.
On the issue of color coding the floors/specialties, etc., I can see the advantage, sure. I get that patients have a ton of people going in and out of the rooms, but I really don’t think it’s something that can’t be fixed by introducing yourself to your patient and having a small conversation with them. Maybe all that’s needed is an in-service on bedside manners? One hospital I was in had an extension on their name tags with a specific color and a very large “RN” printed on both sides so there was really no question who you were talking to and what floor they were on. Seems a lot more simple than mandating a color coded floor.
I don’t think we need to be color-coding everything, but whatever is in the patient’s best interest. I do, however, think that nursing school uniforms should be re-considered, maybe ALL white isn’t the best choice.
Nursing students: What do you think about your school’s uniform? Do you think it impacts the way you’re perceived by patients? By staff?
I'm a brand new, full-fledged, fresh-out-of-school RN! And better yet, I landed the job of my dreams working with children. I love what I do, and while everyday on the job is a new (and sometimes scary) experience, I'm taking it all in - absorbing everything I can about this amazing profession we all fell in love with.
By Ani Burr, RN