This is a guest post by freelance writer Joey Whyte.
The matter of selecting the proper attire as a nurse is a complex one.
In the past, it was straightforward, with uniforms supplied to the nurse along with clear and uncompromising rules regarding how they should be worn. For many reasons, in recent decades the approach used for nurse’s uniforms has become more relaxed. In part, this is been because of simple practicality. Modern uniforms are easier to work in and present fewer problems in a health environment.
Nevertheless, this change has in turn resulted in a plethora of other issues, from the cleanliness issues raised by long nails to whether nurses should be expected to wear standard uniforms at all.
Uniforms and Professionalism
Whether we like it or not, a nurse who maintains a professional appearance helps to reassure the patients that they can have confidence in their nurse. That is why having clean and nicely pressed nurse scrubs is so important. Patients can only go by what they see, and a nurse who is casually dressed or who has a slovenly appearance will suggest to that patient that the nurse has a similar attitude to work.
In addition, unusual dress or accessories will divert the patients away from whatever the nurse is attempting to say to them. People do tend to presume that someone wearing the uniform is knowledgeable and professional. Even in settings where it is not possible to wear a uniform, a nurse’ s clothing should be relatively conservative, clean and well maintained. To earn the patient’s trust, it’s vital for the nurse to make a solid first impression.
Utility and Safety
It is often the case that nurses will work in very close contact with their patients. What this means is that nurses in their attire choices have to consider factors other than just professional appearance. They will have to conform to the set policies of the health setting in which they will be working.
To a large extent, these policies will be dictated by safety and health concerns. For instance, the clothing will generally have to be comfortable and loose enough to allow for easy movement, as well as easy to clean. Frequently, other accessories have to be worn for protection, such as aprons, gloves or goggles. These are generally provided by the organization employing the nurse.
As indicated, there are circumstances under which it may be better for a nurse to dress professionally, but not necessarily in an actual uniform. For instance, this might be the case when a nurse doesn’t want to create a distance or barrier between nurse and patient, such as in a mental health setting. Even in these cases however, the nurse will still wear a badge, both for security reasons and to identify themselves to patients and other employees.
All healthcare settings, from hospitals to doctor’s offices, should have clearly written policies about the uniforms to be worn. This policy should cover everything from the uniforms themselves to the types of jewelry and shoes that can be worn. It should also address the issue of wearing the uniform outside the work setting. Usually, this is not allowed. However, if it is not allowed, the employer must provide a changing area. In certain settings, such as an emergency room or nursing facility, laundry facilities should be provided for the staff and spare uniforms should be available.
Nursing is a time-honored and dignified profession that requires all of its practitioners to conduct themselves in a way that instills confidence in patients and brings honor to the profession. While mere appearance is not the most important quality to look for in an individual, a nurse that does not maintain a professional appearance will have a difficult time earning the respect of patients or staff.