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The History of Medical Scrubs

Medical scrubs have become an image of the medical field for as long as we can remember. Whether we have visited a hospital ourselves or have watched one of the many medical dramas that have graced our television screens within the past few years, we instantly recognize those who work within hospitals because of their uniform. However, the way in which medicine has evolved to 'scrubs' becoming its staple uniform is unbeknownst to many.

The practice of medicine cannot necessarily be pinpointed to an exact date of its beginnings, but history and research has shown us that it has been a part of our society as far back as the prehistoric period before evolving to the advanced level which we know today. Different technologies, research and breakthroughs have turned the field of medicine upside-down, making things we initially thought impossible a reality, and in turn, has helped save lives all across the world. However, along with the advances and changes within the medical field from a scientific perspective, the trends and uniforms in which medical staff wear has also evolved. Traditionally, those within the medical field would wear natural materials, which although practical did not provide them with the comfort or durability that the nature of their job role requires. Of course, long ago, people would identify doctors as the men in the white lab coats, but just as medicine has welcomed female doctors into the profession, it has also welcomed style and fashion into its arms.

During the 19th century, the need for uniforms went unrecognized, with many doctors and surgeons performing procedures and surgeries in their civilian clothes. This obviously leaves the unwanted remains of blood from medical procedures which opened the door for a solution: aprons were finally introduced as a means to protect clothing from the various bodily fluids that doctors would be exposed to within the hospitals. Surgical uniforms were eventually introduced around the 1940s. These are known as the first medical scrubs to be used, with a standard white color for all those who required their use. The color white was chosen as it gave a clear appearance of medical staff. Of course, practicality called for colors other than white because of fluids introduced to the uniforms over the course of a day.

To some, color does not seem to be a big deal, but the choice of white caused a few issues. Some felt that it was a bit too harsh on the eyes and the idea of seeing blood stains on the scrubs was extremely unpleasant for anyone who would have to look at them, let alone wear them. Around the 1970s, the need for a more appropriate color was recognized, at which time the introduction of green scrubs came about. Not only were green scrubs more attractive to the eye, there was the added bonus of hiding blood stains well, thus providing a less grotesque look. However, as we are all aware now, scrubs are not just worn by doctors, but nurses alike too. Although the original style was worn by all hospital staff, this did not allow for clear identification of what level and department each member of staff was based. As traditions have continued to change, scrubs can now be found in a wide variety of colors and styles which allow for each department to have its own identity, as well as make each staff member more identifiable by patients, visitors, and even fellow colleagues.

We are surrounded by fashion in all aspects of our lives. Modern society has helped craft a new way in which medicine is perceived, much thanks to the media and television, but it is a good indication of how the field of medicine is an area where fashion which has room to evolve and change.

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