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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?

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Ani Burr, RN

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.
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12 Responses to Yes, I’m the student nurse…all in white

  1. Leslie

    Ani, I agree that white isn’t the best choice. It’s outdated, shows every speck of dirt, and is not the best for the ladies during certain times. And yes, it seems that all white just screams “I’m a student, look out!”….not what we’re going for! I think the nice treatment at said facility was because the nurses at that facility are actually nice (they treat students in white nicely too!).

    From the hospital employee perspective, it is nice to be able to quickly identify students since there are so many people that come and go on the floor.
    Large name tags are a good idea, however, I doubt that school are going to toss the uniform out the window.

    An updated version would be nice though., A solid colored scrub (school colors?) with a contrasting embroidery of the school’s name and “student Nurse” on the chest would be nice! I know UCLA does that with blue scrubs and white lettering.

    Too bad (or not!) that I’m graduating and won’t be able to enjoy this if it happens but hopefully you will before you leave. Luckily, you’re pretty much done with the white anyway!

  2. Elisabeth

    Now I don’t feel so bad about my clinical placement uniform! Mine’s just a navy blue polo shirt with the university logo on it, work with a pair of blue/black pants and a name tag. I think it’s different in Australia though, because only nurses working in emergency or theatre/PACU wear scrubs here. I’m a Div 2 RN (in final year of Div 1 RN course), and when I work (as a nurse at a major public hospital) all I have to wear is black pants and any white top. It’s pretty good I guess, but I got to wear a pair of scrubs one day on a clinical placement and they are so comfy! Kinda jealous on that bit!

  3. Carmen

    I will be graduating from nursing school this May and nothing has caused me more distress than that uniform. There are three schools in our area utilizing the same clinical sites and we all have different uniform. Many times I have looked upon the private school girls in their tasteful eggplant colored scrubs. Why do so many schools insist that “uniform” synonymous with “ugly”?

  4. Melody

    Sorry, I want the student nurses in ‘white’. I do not want my patients or other support staff to confuse them with licensed nurses. This would be a disaster waiting to happen. As for the colorful scrubs? Not here, where I work, the RN’s wear Navy Blue. More and more hospitals are going to the ‘color coded’ system.

  5. Shawnee

    We had a more modern-type uniform when I was in school. We had to wear the white pants/white shoes, but we wore a dark green polo shirt with our school’s name on it. we also had to wear a badge with our name and “student nurse” underneath. Occasionally, I’ll wear all white where I’m working now (we don’t have color restrictions) and I have a lot of people, mostly elderly, thank me for wearing white. They tell me I look like a “real nurse”. :)

  6. U

    Hey, us in Samoa we have to wear an all white dress down to knees or below…It’s nice but it is very uncomfortable some of the times..

  7. Grace

    Feeling that your forehead is labeled ‘Caution, Student Nurse!’ is a reflection of your confidence and experience in all things nursing. I think it’s great that you feel obvious, it means to me that you aren’t too cocky, and hopefully, more cautious.
    I think the color coding for specialty is important. When you’re on the job, things are so hectic, that people need to be easily identifible in an emerging case. No time for ‘Are you from Respiratory?’ meanwhile the patient decompensates.
    Our student nurses wear light blue tops with navy blue bottoms. Our floor treats them well, and are thankful for another pair of eyes on the patient. We do not give them all the dirty work, but work with them during patient care. Otherwise, how can you teach, and assess their competence?

  8. Deanna

    I am a senior in a BSN program (graduate in December 2010…wooHOO!!). My school wears scrubs in our school color for our clinical assignments, and they are royal blue. We also have our school patch on the sleeve, along with a name badge that says “nursing student” as well as an additional picture ID badge with our school logo on it, and STUDENT under our name. We share the hospital with at least one other nursing school that wears white scrubs, and every time I see them, I think “wow, they look like NURSES.” Not that I don’t have love and loyalty for my alma mater, but I come from a long line of nurses, and I have very distinct memories of Grandma in her crisp white dress….hat and all. =) So don’t feel bad, y’all look just fine!

  9. Karla

    I’m a student nurse, my school does not have white scrubs. Instead, we were a white button up top and navy pants. I wish we wore white scrubs though, it’d be more traditional and would point out the fact that you ARE a student nurse. Nothing wrong with being a student, every nurse has to do it at some time. Yes, some facilites and staff members will not treat you well. Again, every nurse has experienced this as a student nurse at some time. Basically, suck it up, if you really want it you’ll put up with it. Hospitals are filled with so many different people doing different things, and nurses are always busy. It makes their job easier if they can look at you and know exactly who you are. Let’s nurses know who they need to keep an extra eye on, you’re bound to make rookie mistakes! White really is for you and your patient’s best interest.

  10. Gena

    Hello, I have a question… I am a RN-BSN student, due to graduate May 2011. I have enough credits for my BSN however graduation is not until then. For Christmas my sister purchased me a lab coat with my new title RN, BSN, it is a awesome lab coat and I am anxious to wear it. Is it illegal (in nursing) to wear a lab jacket that says RN, BSN prior to graduation? Help me please, i dont want to do the wrong thing!!!

  11. John

    My nursing school uniform was burgundy scrubs with out school insignia embroidered on the sleeve. When we oriented at a new hospital or facility, we usually got a group tour by our instructors. Once, walking past a convex mirror at a blind corner, I looked up and realized we looked like a large bunch of grapes r/t the flourescent lighting and started to laugh. I agree with color coding departments, but i really like wearing all white, and have been complimented on it by my pts. guess I’m old school! lol

  12. kayluh91

    I am currently a nursing student in Chicago and we just got our uniforms changed. Our school’s previous uniform was white pants, navy blue polo, and a white lab coat. This year they changed it to all grey scrubs with the school name embroidered. Although the non see-through pants are appreciated, the cost is outrageous.

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