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Historic Nursing Uniforms: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

NursingLink

February 23, 2009

Ah, the portrait of a nurse.

The freshly starched dress, that sharp little hat (oh, that hat!), the coveted pin; remnants of an era long forgotten.

Or are they? Just a few decades back, nurses were required to wear this cap. They had no choice but to button up that pinafore apron every day. And for what? Certainly not for sterilization, though that may have been the intent back then. Now we know better.

Join us as we remember the uniforms of decades past — and smile, because we’ll never force you to wear these outfits again. Ever. Unless you want to, of course.

Unfortunately, there were no cameras until 1839, so we’ve started with the late 1800s.



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  • Photo_user_blank_big

    coach22

    about 1 month ago

    1504 comments

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  • Photo_user_blank_big

    anitabreak

    10 months ago

    2 comments

    I graduated from Fitchburg State College in the early 1980's. Luckily, I had a progressive instructor who taught that caps were a sign of subservience and are worn generally, by non-professionals (think; doorman, fast food workers, maids). Still, as a tribute to history, we still had pinning ceremony in which caps were required. I was happy to find someone to borrow one from from for the day! When I began work in a busy city hospital, we wore all white uniforms. It made me feel professional but again, subservient as doctors generally wore street clothes (and usually surgeons wore the white jacket over them). Later, I did enjoy wearing comfortable scrubs because they were warmer than dresses, much less see through (!!) and had roomy pockets. Ones name tag and professionalism earns respect. I usually found that the nurses who continued to wear all white, with a cap, were generally older nurses who flustered easily. Not always, but usually.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    6auggies

    over 3 years ago

    2 comments

    I'm a new millenium nurse. Those white uniforms are ugly with a capital U. I love wearing scrubs plus they're comfortable and fashionable. And I'm sick of the "cant tell nurses from other staff" lame excuse. I don't know about you, but every facility I've been in or worked at everybody has a badge with their name and position so if you're confused about who is who, just ask to see their badge......how simple is that?

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    lindainman

    over 3 years ago

    4 comments

    I graduated in the 70's the skirts were short and impossible to work in. I love scrubs. I love the pockets that allow me to carry all the stuff I may need.

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    plumgarnet

    over 3 years ago

    2 comments

    She looks fresh and clean and sanitary. I would love to have her as my nurse if I needed one. When I graduated, our hospital had its own white uniform and cap. I looked great in it and felt very proud to wear them. I hate scrubs...I feel like I just got out of bed. Clothes can make you feel professional or sloppy. This nurse looks professional. I liked it then and still do. It wasn't a status symbol, it was your business suit, so to speak. Yes, it gets dirty easier, but then again, nurses are supposed to be CLEAN...especially when working with sick people who might be compromised by dirt and filth. One of the tattoo photos showed a caduceus and the bra strap and bra the gal was wearing was dirty. I can get passed the tattoo, but I can't get passed the filth on a nurse.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Kay

    over 3 years ago

    154 comments

    I just think it's sad that scrub manufacturers think it's appropriate to put nurses in uniforms with cartoon animals on them. We are professionals. Would a banker wear a suit with cartoon characters on it to work? Would a lawyer or doctor or really anyone else? No. So why is it that nurses should be expected to or offered the option. Unless a nurse works in pediatrics, it's not professional.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Miasma

    over 3 years ago

    8 comments

    I disagree about wearing all white as being a status symbol for nurses. I also disagree that the patients would like it too... some people feel intimidated when they see people in all white, ergo blood pressures that go up due to "white coat syndrome". Sure, some people would probably like to see the nurses in all white, but certainly not all. Carry yourself with professionalism, keep a clean, properly fitting uniform (not a "looking for a mother-in-law fit), and introduce yourself as a nurse to your patients and you will likely earn far more respect than just wearing all white.

  • Christys_wedding_max50

    patrice_nicole

    over 3 years ago

    16 comments

    I didn't realize the number of nurses and facilities that did not wear white. The major hospitals in my city are required to wear white to differentiate nurses from other staff. It gets dirty easier but is tolerable and is all I have ever worn...even in nursing school.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    mlm

    over 3 years ago

    2 comments

    I have been a Registered Nurse for 23 years. I believe nurses should wear white uniforms. Nurses worked hard to earn prestige. We must be dressed differently from housekeeping and others who wear scrubs nowadays. I agree with the previous comment. I work as a Hospice Nurse doing home visits. Hospice requested that dress street clothing be worn. I refused to give in.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    satweed

    over 3 years ago

    2 comments

    I still think that registered nurses should wear white to differentiate them from other health care professionals. The public has no way of knowing who the registered nurses are in a hospital or other health facility. White has been one of our symbols. We worked hard for the credentials of RN and need to proudly exhibit that in our workplace. I've wondered with the pervasive use of scrubs by every level of health care workers could this be one of the ways MRSA has spread in our communities.
    Stand up for your profession - WEAR WHITE if you are an RN!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    LoHi

    almost 4 years ago

    2 comments

    Nurses work hard for their patients and worked hard to get were they are today! So why do we look like we just walked out of the local thrift shop? What you were in the public eye when you are practicing your nursing profession is important. I have worn all white with a cap to street clothes. The key is to be professional in your dress as well as your attitude. Nursing is an art as well as a professional career.

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    cxg174

    almost 4 years ago

    50 comments

    I hated the cap, but liked the older uniforms in a way. I liked it when we were all in white. Modern scrub material is too thin to wear just white unfortunately. I wish manufacturers would think about what we wear our scrubs for when they design them. They show way too much, which make us look sloppy.

  • Keith_shauna1_max50

    shaunabphillips

    over 4 years ago

    6 comments

    Oh and on the cap...Yes, it was used for identification; however, up to 60-70s (and early 80s), women stylishly wore hats. There were hat boutiques and their cute lil hat boxes. So, as a form of identification? They could have stayed with the 'bucket' hats or the nun gear of earlier times; however, you saw the dress and the hat change in..what...STYLE? The lady on the first page is wearing a stylish type of hat that women wore back then that you held in place with bobby pins, hat pins, etc. You see, nursing has always moved with the tide of society and STYLE. So, I'm saying..the nurses from the 1900s would probably look at the nurses in WWII and say "OMG..they have their ankles showing...that is so unprofessional." But our uniforms and what we wear moves with women's and men's (i.e. cargo pant scrubs) style and comfort. There is no reason we can't be professional AND cute :) at the same time ;)

  • Keith_shauna1_max50

    shaunabphillips

    over 4 years ago

    6 comments

    Well, I think that scrubs are not as cumbersome as the white dress, stockings, etc. When there is a code on the floor and you have to run to the crash cart and then to the room, even a few seconds count. ANNNND let us not forget that most scrubs are made from a stainless material now & even resistance to SOME forms of bacteria. And professionalism is not determined by what is on your body, it is determined by the way you carry yourself, accomplish your job, and competency. I can have all the starchy-whites and stockings, but if I behave like a fool and can't perform my job competently and I talk nonsense, then no dress OR scrub OR white support hose is going to gain my professionalism back.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    lulubelle

    over 4 years ago

    8 comments

    I would love for the hospital to go back to wear all white. The patience would love it too.

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