Nursing Blogs

Color-coded care?


This isn’t a relatively new topic, but it’s a hot topic still up for debate. What do you think about mandating nurses to wear a specific colored scrub uniform?
I myself have had 2 reactions to this problem. My first reaction was a defensive reflex. “What do you mean requiring me to wear a specific uniform?” Are you paying for it? What the heck? What’s wrong with what I have been wearing for years?

I can’t say I was agreeing or disagreeing with this, I just questioned the notion. Honestly I have always only worn one uniform color of scrubs. I’ve never been one to wear the patterned scrub outfits (I hate to say it – is it because I’m a guy?).

I also starting having this overwhelming nightmarish vision of nurses being in all white again. Whether good or bad, I really can’t say I ever liked the stereotypical all white uniform, or the cap, or the skirt, or polished white shoes. Maybe it’s just me, but when I see an all white uniform I think of the orderlies who work in the psychiatric ward (yes, I fully admit to watching too much television). I guess I just feel that we as a profession have grown and evolved beyond what that uniform represents. We are not hand maidens, nor are we subordinates. We are independent thinkers and patient advocates who demand and require a great deal of critical thinking skills and knowledge. I despise the ‘I’m just the nurse’ attitude and answer.

So, color coded professions ehh? I’ve learned that the movement to go back to all white, or at least one color is motivated by those wonderful people from Press-Ganey. For anyone that has some familiarity with this program, company and service, they provide a measuring tool for how well a certain facility, profession is doing their intended duties. Patient satisfaction is the cornerstone of nursing, and Press Ganey has become the experts on patient satisfaction. (If you’ve ever been a patient, you get a lil’ survey during or after your stay – asking how your stay was)

So, patient satisfaction scores (from surveys) has informed us that most patients have no idea who is going in and out of their hospital room because of all the multiple outfits, uniforms, colors, etc. Are they a doctor? A nurse? A surgeon? A radiology tech? The list goes on.

It was discovered that patient satisfaction increased when the facility made each department and service have an exclusive color/uniform. When a person in a ‘white uniform’ entered their room – even if they weren’t told, they assumed and knew it was a nurse. This is unfortunately due to the stereotype I talked about earlier.

I for one really hate the all white uniform, but I’m all about providing the best care possible for my patients. While I’m joining the ranks of complaining of solid colored nursing uniforms and the all white persona, how can I / we argue with an intervention that increases patient satisfaction?

I’d love to hear you thoughts on this one.

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