Do nurses from other countries dress the same way as you do? Do their hospitals have dress codes or can nurses choose what to wear? Are scrubs the norm everywhere or are other types of apparel seen as equally functional?
The answer to all of these questions is “It depends.” Nursing uniforms and scrubs styles vary widely around the globe. Even within one country, the style of nursing clothing often differs from one region—even one hospital—to the next. While many nurses do wear the same scrubs styles we see in North America, there are also lots of countries where styles we might consider old-fashioned or impractical are still the norm. There’s also a big difference between the kind of uniform a nurse might don for a formal portrait versus what she might wear daily in a healthcare setting. With that in mind, here are some of the styles you might see if you traveled the world getting to know nurses from other lands.
In both Central and South America, modern scrubs are ubiquitous—especially in urban settings. However, scrubs can be mixed and matched with local dress styles in some situations. For example, a nurse from Guatemala might wear a scrubs top and a brightly colored, beautifully patterned skirt made of locally woven fabrics.
White button-down, lab-coat-style scrubs are common in China, while white dresses with puffed sleeves and a small collar are seen in Japan. In both countries, many nurses wear a bonnet-style cap at work as well. For special occasions, uniforms and bonnets may be much fancier and more brightly colored. But they are still identical for all of the nurses on staff. It’s kind of like having “dress blues” in the military or law enforcement. Say what you will about strict dress codes, but they do make it easier to decide what to wear to work!
As you might expect, dress codes in the lovely Polynesian islands are relaxed and easy on the eyes. For example, nurses in Samoa might wear soft pink scrubs printed with plumeria flowers common in the region. On a special occasion, they might add a pop of color to a traditional white nursing dress with a lei of real blossoms.
In some areas of this country, hospitals are funded and managed by the Eastern Orthodox Church. So you’ll still see nurses in wimples and habits (black and white or all white) in these healthcare settings. For these sisters, nursing is definitely more than a career choice—it’s truly a vocation.