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Nurses weigh in on the great dress code debate

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More and more hospitals are implementing color-coded dress codes for staff members…and for the nurses who love their Betty Boop or polka-dotted scrubs, it’s a huge disappointment! On the other hand, some nurses are thrilled to not have to worry about what to wear to work anymore, and to be able to more easily identify their colleagues during those all-too-common hectic moments on the job. We asked our Facebook fans if the dress codes are “working” at their hospitals—read on for their brutally honest and extremely differing viewpoints. Then weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments section below!

Are dress codes “working” at your hospital?

No!

“I work for a company that has two hospitals in two different cities. One has a color-coded dress code down to the shoes; the other is very liberal and allows nurses to wear ‘fun scrubs.’ I can tell you that the morale is definitely higher at the hospital with the fun scrubs, especially after the change to an even stricter dress code at the other hospital, where disciplinary action was taken for anyone found out of the new dress code. The new dress code was nine pages long and completely ridiculous. The worst part was the shoes—people were forced to buy new shoes that hurt their feet and didn’t support their backs, just so they were in code. The other hospital has a better reputation, scores higher on national surveys and has higher scores for employee satisfaction. Uniforms may seem insignificant, but I believe they play a role. As far as patients and family being able to identify us better, I’d like to test it out sometime. I have no doubt in my mind that they have no idea that I’m an RN unless I identify myself as one, which I can do just as well in whatever color scrubs I choose to wear that day.”
—Carrie-Anne Keane

“They’re trialing it at our hospital on certain floors (not mine, thankfully)—nurses in navy blue, CNAs in grey. As far as I can tell, the patients still don’t know who’s a nurse and who’s a CNA or a housekeeper. Especially since so many people are on precautions, so our yellow gowns cover our scrubs anyhow….”
—Danièle Bucar Côté

“I will never see how a dress code will replace good communication in an environment where bad communication is often the standard. No matter what color scrubs I have worn, there has never been a doubt as to what my role is to my patient, the doctors I work with as well as other support staff in the clinical environment. Identifying yourself both verbally and nonverbally (via properly worn badges) will never take the place of an often obscure color schematic that both classifies the staff and creates yet another reason not to communicate with each other.”
—Kalli Nedeau

“What peeves me the most is that I still have to buy them. If the hospital provides them, I’ll wear any color they want. But to be mandated—right down to sock color—and I have to buy it? It rubs me wrong.”
—Stephani Reazor

“I’ve worked in subacute rehab and I wore pretty colored scrubs with floral tops because I thought it might be cheerful and perhaps brighten the patients’ drab surroundings a little bit. The patients often commented how nice that looked. I think having a second role-identifying badge in large, distinguishable lettering worn underneath your name tag is a better choice than color-coded uniforms. There are some cases where there is no choice but to wear hospital-issued standard scrubs. But in other patient areas where you have a choice, I think having the freedom to choose what color and style scrubs to wear gives nursing staff a greater feeling of autonomy and lends a little bit of positive staff morale.”
—Amy Gerulat

Are dress codes “working” at your hospital?

Yes!

“The color differences between the nurses and the techs have worked really well at my place of work. Many of the doctors know who wears what color, and it helps them when they need to pass on orders to a nurse or speak with a nurse. It also helps fellow employees pick out whom to ask certain questions to. It gets very frustrating not to know who does what on the floor. The colors help us all! As for the patients, everyone is a nurse to them, even the ones without the big RN under their badge.”
—Traci Danner-Bernadt

“It’s a great way to be identified as discipline-specific for families and patients. I miss being able to wear my own scrubs, but I don’t have to worry about what to wear anymore. I can always throw a different color shirt under my top. Besides, you still have shoes!”
—Tracy Soderquist

“Our patients have a paper in their admission pack that explains colors. But it’s also helpful to the staff in an emergent situation, codes, disasters in ER, etc., to be able to look around and know your RT, pharmacy, lab, nurse, etc., when you may not know all the names and faces. We have more than 1,500 employees at our hospital with numerous students of nursing, EMTs, paramedics, radiology, etc. Nurses wear royal blue and our patients look for it!”
—Lisa Blevins

“My hospital requires nurses to wear either all white or white on top and navy on bottom, and I love it. The physicians know who they are looking for and the patients know who to ask for. I still get a lot of compliments on my scrubs because there are still plenty of options for diversity in color-coding employees, such as white-on-white embroidery and lace work. Also, it looks more professional, which is especially important to those of us who look young for our age. It seems to command more respect than a bunch of cartoons on our clothes.”
—Tammy Wenz

“The hospital I work at has a policy for most staff, and other areas are going to be phased in. The nurses switched as of Labor Day. It was a yearlong undertaking where patients’ families and staff were surveyed. The RNs voted on the color. If you were a full-time employee, you got three sets free with our hospital’s name embroidered on the tops. It’s been very positive and everyone looks so much more professional.”
—Kristine Sullivan Renshaw

What do you think—are dress codes “working” at your hospital? Weigh in below!

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3 Responses to Nurses weigh in on the great dress code debate

  1. Springkeeper RN

    We have a green and/or white dress code (shoes colors are exempt) overall although some departments are color coded (e.g. respiratory, PT, labor/delivery, lab, etc.). I think it would be better if the CNAs wore all green and the nurses white or white/green so the patients get less confused. Our name badges are too small to read unless you have good sight and are only a foot or two away from the other person. I think solid colors should be worn everywhere but pediatrics as I don’t think it looks even remotely professional to wear Snoopy, Hello Kitty, etc. Numerous surveys have shown patients prefer solid colors on their nurses and I really do care about the patients’ opinions. I wear what I want when I am off-duty.

  2. terrimtz1 RN

    I’ve never been a fan of the “cutesy” scrubs any way. Although I do miss wearing some of my scrub tops, particularly my hand-dyed Sahara Fund African scrubs of beautiful batiks & kente cloths that support an orphanage and clinic near Cape Town, I must say I do like the color-coordinated scrubs dress code. Our hospital isn’t as strict as some, so as long as we wear the color, it really doesn’t matter the brand or style of scrubs. We do however have a lot of fun with our colorful socks and seems everyone’s favorite shoes are the patterned or hand-painted Danskos.

  3. 25yearnurse

    I don’t think patients know the difference when it comes to scrub color, I can tell you that after a year of mandatory scrub colors— I HATE NAVY BLUE.