Nursing Uniforms Have Come A Long Way
Today’s nurses want to see a wide variety of styles, colors, materials and features when it comes to purchasing the perfect medical scrub: top, bottom or set. But this personal freedom, which is really the freedom to express the personality in increasingly interesting ways, was not always the case. In fact before the nursing uniform itself is really relatively new when viewed across the decades and centuries in the history of medical care.
Nursing for most of history was an unscientific, casual – and poorly executed field that was dominated primarily by women. The women called nurses were often self-taught and, in many cases, were viewed as outcasts by society. And this is because “respectable” women were typically expected to marry and raise a family. Early nurses traveled quite a bit to poorer areas of the western world and offered care to people and families who could not afford medical care.
All of this changed dramatically in the mid-1800′s when Florence Nightingale wholly changed the face of the industry and profession. Nightingale’s work in the Crimean War helped elevate the status of nursing, and with the creation of the Nightingale Training School for Nurses at St. Thomas Hospital in London in 1860, it became important for those who entered the profession to be differentiated from the untrained workers who assisted in the military field or in hospitals. And so the modern uniform began to take shape.
The most popular nursing garments in the late 1800s was designed to combat the forces of fever and to protect against the nascent concepts of “infection.” In addition, it was designed to be respectable and feminine as well. Collectively, these requirements represented a tall order with respect to garment design. It consisted of a starched white apron with shoulder straps over a long-sleeve dress (generally in a drab grey color) with a starched collar, worn with a white frilly cap with chin ties. A hatband system identified nurses of different rank, and as a nurse climbed the ladder, the pastel bands of the novice were replaced with the black band of an experienced professional. Hats were commonly used in disciplinary actions; a nurse caught smoking, for example, might lose the privilege of wearing her hat.
Around the turn of the century, the nursing uniform had become much more specific and detailed to the requirements of the job. Pockets, button-down stylingand pointy collars adorned the dress, and the strapped apron evolved into a bibbed one with a gathered skirt. Hats of the day resembled the large coif of a nun, possibly because, in some settings, the two professions merged with sister-nurses being the primary caretakers of the injured and ill.
Functionality prevailed over decorum by the time the first great war of the 20th century began. Soldiers injured in duty began rapidly filling hospital wards and infirmary tents, and the nurses uniform had to stand up to the job. The uniform needed compliment the rigors of the job not hamper her mobility. Short or rolled sleeves and shorter dresses and many time without the apron were most common to the era – World War II. With the advent of the Second World War, women began to enter the work force in multiples, and nursing became a popular and exciting profession for the females of the time. Uniform style was dictated by demand for chic yet simple attire. Garments had to be easy to wash and to wear, and the materials had to be durable. Over the years, as more men entered the field of nursing, hats became less common and, in the United States have gradually disappeared over the years.
Today, in many professional settings in the US, top and bottom scrub suits are the exception rather than the rule. And they were initially offered as a unisex, loose-fitting, solid-colored V-neck top with drawstring pants, this uniform was designed to prevent the spread of infectious disease. Today’s scrubs are available in many, many diversified styles, fabrics, colors and prints.