Letters Page

This article was first published on the old Nurse Uniforms - Past & Present website (http://dyk.homestead.com/) around 1999-July 2018, created by Kevin Dycken. It is now offline, this is a remake in a modern look.

The uniform debate is still going strong in the letters pages of the Nursing press. I'll be using this page to help put the argument across, although I've no doubt as to what side of the fence the majority of my visitors will be on. If any nurses out there wish to contribute, then please mail me and I'll add your letters here.

From Nursing Standard, February 2002

Tunic and trousers are not a 'real' uniform

As a Student Nurse, I think it is really important to wear a distinctive uniform that is recognised widely by the patients and their visitors.
My university makes us wear awful tunics and trousers. I want the choice of wearing a 'real' nursing uniform, by which I mean the traditional blue and white striped dress with an elasticated belt. I know in the past there was concern about safe lifting when wearing traditional uniforms, but good design features such as pleats in the dress and shoulder vents allow for freedom of movement. Wearing a belt looks really smart and does not impede movement at all, according to the qualified staff I have asked.
We should all be proud to wear a uniform that says 'I'm a nurse', rather than wearing something purely functional and characterless.

Sally Robertson, London

From Nursing Standard, February 2002

Why must we dress the same as cleaners?

As a student nurse, I am fed up with being asked by patients if I am a cleaner! We have to wear a tunic and trouser suit that looks shabby and unprofessional. Worst still, the seat of the trousers is prone to ripping when you bend over and most of us find the outfit too hot for a well-heated ward.
We are proud to be nurses and feel we should have the choice of wearing a uniform that is clearly a nursing uniform by which we mean a traditional style of blue and white striped dress and belt in a cool, comfortable material, with pleats to allow safe lifting and handling.
Qualified nurses at the hospital where we do clinical attachments wear a smart traditional dress with belt and silver buckle. This only highlights how scruffy our uniforms are and prevents us feeling part of the team and part of the profession.
Why the students' uniform at my school of nursing was changed about five years ago is beyond me. Most of us want to return to wearing a 'real' nurses' uniform.

Pauline Fuller

From Phil Harwood, March 2002

Hi Kev,

Interesting article from Dee and David. In the private residential nursing home that I was in the number of nursing/care staff, including bank, agency, and visiting District Nurses was around 55. My observations of these would suggest that while Dee was certainly correct re dress size determining dress or tunic choice there was also definitely an age factor. The age range was from 18 to 60 and "care" i.e unqualified staff outnumbered RGNs by approx 3:1.Tunics were de rigeur for below 30's while it was the opposite above that. There were naturally exceptions though. It seemed that the older the wearer the more likely it would be a dress. It was also interesting that the older they were, the more likely they would be wearing proper duty shoes, rather than trainers, and even belts.

The management provided uniforms and there was a free choice. However management seemed to prefer tunics and there was gentle encouragement in that choice direction. I believe this was purely from a cost point of view! They had previously provided trousers as well but had stopped on cost grounds. Though you could have both (dress and tunic), few did (there was however one young care assistant who sometimes wore her uniform dress with trousers which I thought was odd, though she was very tall!). Interestingly all the visiting DNs wore dresses, though they were all over 30 the majority were size 16 or less.

It was interesting re their comment about trousers being preferred in cold weather.Northern English and Scottish Border DNs started wearing trousers well before they came fashionable on Wards, due to having to cope with more adverse climate conditions than their southern counterparts. I have a Grahams of Stockton catalogue from the early 80's where they are selling "Trews" for DNs.

Anyway back to the care home. The clients definitely preferred staff in dresses and felt that those wearing them were "nurses" while those not wearing them weren't, which did cause confusion with those RGNs who preferred tunics. It was also interesting that the non European nurses (mainly Filipino or Indian) all wore tunics (perhaps a culture thing?).

While sorting thru some cuttings I came upon a piece from an old NT dated 13/10/93 entitled "Time to Get Changed" by a Toni Turner which was typical of the campaign NT waged to get nurses into scrubs.This took a Sunday times interview with the then Health minister Dr.Brian Mawhinney where he was reported as being concerned that the "National" restricted movement and contributed to back injuries as a starting point. Dr Macwhinney wanted the National replaced by a uniform that was "simple & pratical ... comfortable & suitable" and went on to say that "patients respond to nurses on the basis of the vital jobs they do .. rather than the way they look"

This was very reasonable but NT seized on some of the tabloids interpretations of this interview where they put forward the view that traditional uniforms were under threat (true) to the detriment of patients who wouldn't see "traditional short frocks and sexily tight blue belts" and "seductive flashes of a staff nurse's thighs". You can imagine NT's response "a second (the first back injury) essential reason why nurses, who have not already, should rethink (wearing) traditional uniform". They suggested nurses get these tabloid articles & pin them to their noticeboards to convince colleagues who "are reluctant to change their attire because they are concerned about their image".

The tabloids had played straight into NT's hands!

This wasn't an isolated incident of NT's campaign. I remember one issue where the front page showed a QARANC Sister in her veil with the headline "Where Did you Get That Hat?" with the implicit suggestion she was a dinosaur rather than a very smartly dressed professional nurse.

I think NT have a lot to answer for!

Phil Harwood

From Sue in Australia, March 2002

Hi, interesting website. It's nice to know there are others out there concerned about the sad state of nurses' appearance these days.

I'm curious that there is so little about Australian/New Zealand/South African nurses' uniforms on the site, however. We have in Australia the same problems as the UK in that we seem to inevitably follow whatever the US does and have done away with our traditional nurses' uniforms in favour of sloppy trousers, tee-shirts and joggers and the complaint I hear from the public and hospital staff alike is that they cannot tell who the nurses are in the hospital! I worked recently in a Palliative Care unit in a very expensive private hospital where my "uniform" consisted of navy pants and a bright yellow polo shirt - I felt sloppy, untidy and embarrassed, no matter what I did there was no way I could make the uniform look professional, the patients hated it (bright yellow is not a soothing colour around very ill people) and so did the staff! No wonder nurses get so little respect these days, we looked dreadful, sloppy and unprofessional.

I trained in Sydney in 1974 when we wore a royal blue dress (until a couple of years before this it had been long-sleeved with detachable cuffs, but just before I commenced training the sleeves were shortened with an attached white edging, due to our hot climate). This had a "peter pan" collar and was covered completely with a white starched apron with cross-over straps at the back and wide white belt (blue for probationers). The cap was pleated and had to completely cover your hair, interestingly unlike most English caps I see. Your year of seniority was marked by the number of blue stripes on the front of your cap. We wore dark brown stockings and dark brown duty shoes, with either a red or blue cape with epaulettes. Sisters (all State Registered Nurses here were called Sisters, unlike the UK where I believe only the "Charge Sister" is called by that term) wore a powder-blue uniform with a double row of white buttons down the front, black shoes, clear stockings and a very large white starched tulle veil,which I have sometimes seen referred to as the "butterfly veil" - at my hospital it was very large and one learnt very early on to stand at least three feet away from any Sister, as any closer than this and, when she turned around, you were likely to get a nasty scratch from the stiff edge of the VERY highly starched veil hitting you! Assistant Matrons wore navy blue uniforms with a double row of white buttons and white veil, Charge Sisters wore a normal Sister's uniform but with a very tall conical-shaped veil so that they were instantly recognizable, and Matron alone wore all white with the biggest veil of all!

We were all enormously proud of our uniform, some girls travelling from other cities to train at the hospital because of the attraction of the uniform! We all longed like mad to get the veil, which was a sign that you were a Sister, had "made it" and gave one huge respect around the hospital. I thought most sisters looked beautiful in it, and still do. Our uniform was hot, not comfortable, and took ages to put on, with a high collar and three layers of starched belt in our climate! But we all loved it. (A huge concession was made the year I commenced training, in that Matron decreed we were permitted, whilst in the nurses' training school only, to undo the top button of our collars in the summer - but punishment was severe if you were seen anywhere outside the training school with your collar undone). In fact noone ever did, as this would have been unthinkable. (The rules were very strict - when I was training nurses could be dismissed instantly if seen eating anywhere where a member of the public could see them).

I have interesting pictures in the old "recruitment brochures" from my hospital and others which I have kept but have no way of copying them to get them to you. I would suggest you research more on the Australian scene as many hospitals here up to the 1970's and early 1980's kept very elaborate uniforms. Our military uniforms were also elaborate and very beautiful.

It is sad to see the demise of something which we once took so much pride in. I recently saw my old uniform in a museum in a University nursing school here in Australia with a sign saying how laughable it was - I wonder why current nurses so often seem to ridicule what we wore, we took enormous pride in our appearance and in our training hospital.

I look forward to seeing some more Australian pictures on your site in the future!

Good luck, Sue

From Nursing Standard, April 2002

The Tunic & Trousers Debate Just Won't Wear

Mike Betts (Letters 20 March) is trying to undermine pride in our appearance by suggesting that the traditional uniform causes back injuries and that we should move to a tunic-and-trousers style. Of course safety is vital, but this can be achieved by good uniform design without abandoning our traditional appearance. Those in favour of a tunic-and-trousers style of uniform often quote a study by Stubbs et al published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies in 1985, which compared ease of movement when wearing a leotard with wearing a dress or trouser suit. To use this as evidence is flawed because the type of dress used was not of a modern design, with pleats and shoulder vents as is now worn by most nurses. We should keep a well-designed version of the traditional uniform, or at the very least, retain the right to do so.

Catherine Bartlett, Cambridge

From Sarah, May 2002

The position in Cambridge is that about 50% of the students wear dresses and 50% now wear tunics and trousers. I had a student working with me last week, she was wearing the grey and white striped dress and a white belt. I praised her for looking smart and professional and she told me she had tried the tunic style but found that many patients simply did not recognise her as a nurse so she now always wears a dress to work. Good for her, but it does seem the tunic style is becoming ever more common which is really sad as it means we are losing our unique and respected professional image in uniform.


From Mary in Scotland, June 2002


I'm no longer working as a Nurse due to an injury that was nothing to do with work; but I loved my job and miss it dearly. I started my training in 1988 at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and remember my first uniform and how smart I felt and looked, and how much I coveted my hat and cloak. But.......

I am sorry you may not wish to hear this but I found helping lift an enormous patient up a bed meant that I had to hitch my skirt up past my knees and lead to comments of " oh nurse" and tights, tights, tights, tights, don't forget that they were are part of the uniform, a paltry amount allowed to be reclaimed whilst a vast amount was spent on replacing them, sometimes a couple of times a shift. I also had sexist comments/harassment from male patients about how I had a hole in my tights, and when I said "oh no, where?", he promptly told me where I couldn't see it. Sorry if this is rude but it is related in truth. I was sitting beside another male patient, he was lying on a trolley, I became aware that he was looking at my legs and made me feel a bit uncomfortable so I stood and sorted my skirt. He told me that I had to watch in case I didn't get AIDS, and that I didn't look the type to get AIDS as you had to shag to get AIDS and the way I'd pulled my skirt further down I looked as if I'd never been shagged....(I am not a prude!!!)

These and many other things happened when I wore dresses; but when I wore trousers, the incidents dropped. I also have had occasion to have to jump up on a bed being rushed along a corridor to get the patient to the nearest resuscitation area and although it wasn't my first thought, this was not easy nor was it dignified in a dress. Trousers Well I worked in Ayr hospital and had no problems with patients identifying me as a nurse. Instead of asking "What do the stripes on your hat mean?" or "What do the different coloured lapels mean?" they just asked, "What do the different coloured trousers mean?".In Accident and Emergency all staff wore the same hi-tech outfits, ones that repelled blood and vomit, there for lessening the chances of these penetrating to the staff in an that area. The auxiliaries wore the same uniform slightly different colour, as all grades of nurses and doctors. I never had any problems with identification as I always introduced myself to patients.

The only thing that some times happened is that some patients mistook me for a doctor. What is wrong with that? All I had to say was "I'll get the doctor for you". We were a team, we were all necessary and what grade we were or what part we played in that team did not have to be displayed to anyone. We wore badges and introduced ourselves to people as is polite in any situation.

There is a member of staff who still wears hats in the surgical area of where I worked. Hats I found were nothing but a nuisance of no practical use, cost a lot of money that could be spent more wisely elsewhere, but looked very smart! This individual is referred to as 'Sister' by all the patients because she wears a hat. She is not, she is a wonderful nurse but is not a Sister, and she even succumbed to the trouser uniform. Perhaps as they look so smart, we could do as they do in the Military and Fire Service, that is have a dress uniform to be worn on special occasions like qualification, presentation, etc......But for me, if it comes down to the look over patient care and less sexual harassment, I'll vote for troooosers every time.


From Sue in Australia, June 2002

At the last hospital I worked at (which had been a military hospital during WWII) there was a terrific little museum of nursing and they had a model wearing complete WWII Army nurses uniform and I was chatting to the elderly lady who ran the museum. She had been a WWII army nurse in Africa and I was saying that the uniform, with its large starched veil and red cape, was almost identical to the uniform I had worn at my original hospital and we were saying how lovely it was - but she said all the young nurses used to come in and say how awful to have to wear all that gear! - so the nurses now just don't want to wear this stuff. It's funny because we never thought about it, that was simply what a nurse wore. I do wonder what effect this has on nurse recruitment, not only have they made it 3 years at university instead of paid employment (lousy pay, I'll admit, but better than nothing, and with a place to live in the nurses' home) but now you don't even LOOK like a nurse, and we had all the fun of photos taken by proud family members and we'd all preen ourselves and admire ourselves in the mirror when we got our aprons and veils and looked like "real" nurses at last! So I think they miss out on all the fun and suspect that nursing just doesn't have the same attraction any more.

Heck, I'm not THAT OLD yet and I'm already feeling like a museum piece. I'm even sounding like one! It's bad enough when I tell nurses how I used to scrub metal bedpans with steel wool to make them shine and how Sister used to check the hospital corners on my beds were exactly 45 degrees by checking with a ruler - and now they use plastic bedpans and have fitted corners on the sheets - and the new nurses look at me as if I've come from Outer Space, honestly. I must say I was shocked the first time I saw fitted corners on a hospital bed sheet and it's certainly a lot easier - when I think of the hours we spent practising making ABSOLUTELY PERFECT beds ...

The next step, of course, is to get as bad as the States and have nurses wearing baggy scrubs all the time - have you looked at some of the American sites? Eeek! We're not far off that here now.


From CH in America, July 2002

I haven't gone completely through your web site yet. Just reading the intro article and scanning down the page brought tears to my eyes. I come from a family of nurses and I am the last in the line. All before me have gone and there are no other women in our family except my sister. Both of us have boys and unless my niece goes 'nursey', we end with me, from my great-grandmother to my great aunts and my mother then to me.

I think of how grand I felt when I got my cap and pin the first time I went to school to be an LPN, then later went back to get my RN. No pinning, no capping and I somehow felt cheated. I have my mothers caps and pins, plus mine. I worked with an older nurse when I began in 1987 and she always said, 'Treasure your cap, it is a sign of your dignity, wear it proudly'.

I remember stories from my mom how her Aunt got into trouble the day before capping in the late 20's early 30's. There were 3 sisters in nursing school in Indiana, one year.apart, so my Great Aunt was denied her stripe for her cap for 6 months. The sisters were to have their picture taken together, and being resourceful, Great Aunt taped a black shoe string on her cap so the picture would be complete....3 sisters all capped with stripes. I am rambling, thanks for the site, I can't wait to investigate further.

thanks from one ole nurse with a cap

From British Nursing by Graeme, September 2002

Hi , I'm a student nurse training with the Royal Navy. We spend a lot of our time in normal civilian university and hospitals but obviously also do placements with the Navy. I am sure you can join as a Staff Nurse or with a few years experience as a Nursing Officer.
I think you either love it or hate it! The actual nursing is the same but there is much more time to give to patients and I think they get better care. The whole system is more structured than the NHS and the wards are clean! Of course its military so there is a bit of calling people "Sir". We also learn all sorts of other military skills such as map reading, survival etc.
The other thing is that the ward uniform is really great, we still wear a proper traditional uniform with starched apron and hat. It looks very smart and is perfectly comfortable to wear and I know a lot of my civvy friends are envious of it. I love the Navy and can't wait to be qualified, I then hope to progress to be an Officer in due course.


From Cliff, October 2002

I was intrigued to find your website. Congratulations, it must have taken a lot of effort to assemble.

I wonder if you have (or know of) any illustrations showing the nurses cloak with hood. Do you have any record of the significance of the various colour combinations of garment and hood lining. I recall that Nottingham and Newcastle to name just two had a considerable number of such variations.

I believe Guildford area had dark blue and red hood lining for nurses, dark blue and blue hood lining for physiotherapists, and brown with blue hood lining for ancillary staff.

Hope you might be able to help. Look forward to hearing from you.


From Angela, February 2003

Hi Kev
I went to nursing school in America in the eighties when the uniform was still white. I was wondering if anyone else had noticed or even cared about the "new age" nurses uniforms. I personally think it is a dishonor to the profession. I always thoroughly enjoyed dressing each evening to go to work. I took great pride in my dress, stockings and shoes. I always took my time and starched my uniforms and years later my mom was in the hospital and a young nurse remembered me for the way I had so carefully prided myself on my uniform. Now do not take this the wrong way. I was not a stuffy nurse. I just felt that the profession was a very noble and honorable one to be in and therefore I had worked hard for my education and deserved to wear my uniform. Now, it is hard to distinguish who is janitorial from who is medical.

How would anyone even know if the janitorial department was putting an IV in one's arm. In the past few years I have been in many different hospitals and I have to look at name tags before I know what personnel I am talking with.

I think the white uniform needs to come back and stay. Granted, some of them were entirely too tight and hard to move in. They should be made with a more forgiving fabric but still maintain a beautiful design and shape.

I just feel people in general do not take pride in their professions any more and everyone is getting too relaxed. I personally do not feel comfortable with someone standing over my bed when I cannot distinguish from what department they came from. I believe the white uniform gives a patient a sense if being in the presence of a professional who knows what they are doing. No wonder so many patients complain. They are apprehensive as to who is providing their care.

I am contemplating going back into this profession, but the one deterrent is having to wear puppy dogs on tunic tops. What would Florence Nightingale say? If I do make the decision to return to the nursing world, I believe I will flatly refuse to wear anything other than well-tailored dresses or form fitting pant suits(I never did like the shapeless dresses even then). I always re-tailored to make them more flattering in a lady like way. I just loved the tiny pleats, form fitting waist, back vents, kick pleats in the skirts and oh the list goes on. And the shoes had to be not only comfortable but also pretty and lady like. I guess there are still some of us who do feel we can still be a woman, dress as a woman and still be all professional. Hmm.. I sniff at the liberal women who do not appreciate their gender and even hints that the delicate and beautiful white uniform took away from her professional image. Please!!!

In some of the nursing schools the students wear white!! I am shocked as white was always the coveted colour of the nursing students who generally wore light blue or pink when in training. Oh well guess I will not change with the times!!!

Thanks for your web site, Angela

From Celtgel, February 2003

I agree that the traditional nursing uniform does command respect. However, Nurses have a very physical job and scrubs are often more comfortable and can also command respect, esp. in all white. Let's not forget the contribution male nurses make to this wonderful profession. Why have no photos of these courageous and dedicated men in their crisp uniforms?

An equal oppurtunity nurse

From Jennifer in Canada, March 2003

I have been enjoying the nursing images on your web site. I was a student at St Thomas's Hospital in London in 1969 at the Nighingale Training School. It was run on very traditional lines at the time. I remember being presented with what looked like a starched mat for a dressing table and being informed that this 'mat' had to be transformed into a cap. We had to sew the mat into a fluted pillbox with a butterfly bow at the back. It was very pretty as was the whole uniform. We wore starched collars and black stockings. It must be said that while pretty the uniform was somewhat impractical for the work involved.

Nurses in Canada have adopted a casual approach to their work dress usually wearing pants with wildly coloured and patterned tops. They do not look professional and it is hard to know who is who in the hospital anymore. I think there could have been a better compromise.

Love your web site - keep up the good work.


From C, April 2003

As a male nurse, I would love to see a section devoted to male nurses and their history.

Of particular interest to me is the role and importance of male nurses in pediatrics. This was first made clear to me while I was volunteering on the Hematology / Oncology unit at Children's Hospital Boston. Many of the children were starved for male contact, and even as a volunteer, I could comfort children when their usual nurses could not. The children felt acutely cut-off from their fathers or from male figures. I feel that male nurses are desperately needed as role models for children, hospital staff and for adults. Had I had such a model, I would have entered nursing earlier in my life. I still get a thrill when I'm standing in scrubs and talking to a child or family and say, " No, I'm not a doctor. I'm a nurse." I watch their faces as they process this information. Their response is invariably positive and I can see that for at least one person, a stereotype has just been shattered.

From Mayette, May 2003

Can anybody tell me why scrub pants have been recommended and worn by women since the 1950's

Thanks, Mayette

From Nursing Timers, June 2003

Let's Start Looking Like Nurses

I do not understand why some of your correspondants are so dismissive of those of us who value nurses' uniforms. Of course the quality of care we deliver is more important than looking good; but the two can be linked. Nursing involves teamwork and the acceptence of an ethos that puts patients first. Both of these values can be greatly enhanced by wearing a distinctive professional uniform that patients recognise and trust.

Time and again I have heard patients complain that they can no longer tell nurses from other hospital staff. It is time we listened to patients and had the professional self-confidence to return to wearing traditional uniforms.

From Phil, July 2003

Full praise to Sarah for her reasoned letter to NT. However I suspect it will fall on deaf ears. From what I've observed locally there are a number of factors affecting nurses adopting/reverting to traditional uniform styles.Our local Trust has just changed and one of the first acts of the new administration was to introduce new uniforms with a NHS logo at the local cottage hospital. They started with the Health Care assistants who had been in "National" stone with white check dresses (albeit not the most comfortable/attractive of uniforms!) and they were all put into pale blue piped white tunic/ black trouser sets. A similar exercise was then done with the Sisters. Fortunately they all opted to keep their navy piped white dresses. Finally it was the Staff Nurses turn and the majority went for blue piped white tunic/ black trouser sets. I think this is interesting as these are the Sisters of tomorrow. Exactly how much consultation was done I don't know, but I wonder if only Sisters had the ability to resist the change to tunics due to their seniority/experience which the management wouldn't want to lose?

A similar pattern emerged with the local District Nurses, the Sister retained her dress but the Staff and Auxilliary are now mainly in tunics (one older Staff kept her dress). At the local doctors the practice nurses had been in tunics for years so that doesn't alter.

My wife has been ill so we've been having daily DN visits at home. From my observations the younger DN's all have degrees as opposed to their older colleagues who came up through the nursing ranks. I may be wrong but they do not appear to have the same attitude as their older colleagues. They look more sloppy, eg wearing hooded tops over tunics and would never wear a dress, let alone proper duty shoes. The difference between the young Staff DNs and the DN Sister when they have both appeared couldn't be more marked. The Sister is there in a dress, black Petersham belt and buckle, black tights, black lace duty shoes and navy cardigan. Very professional. The Staff DN is in tunic and trousers, scruffy black fashion shoes and a hooded gray sweat top. I know who I have more faith in, even though Staff has a degree! In the good old days Sister would have been gently guiding Staff in her clothing choices, now Sister seems almost apologetic that she's not dressing down! It's a great pity but we can only hope that some may heed Sarah's words.

Regards Phil

From Mike, August 2003

I have just been reading your page on nurses uniforms and must agree with quite a few of your nurses when they say the profession is looking shabby. I am a frequent hospital patient and sometimes find it hard to decide who is the patient and who is the nurse. I would like to see the nurses back in their blue or white dresses looking truly professional and regaining the respect they deserve, there are many new designs in the dresses now making them more comfortable for working.

I am only a patient, maybe my opinion will mean nothing. Incidentally, my niece is a staff nurse and treasures her white uniform dress. She hates those short things &trousers.


From Dawn, November 2003


I am a nursing student in the United States (home of the scrubs). When I received my acceptance letter and list of items I would need to purchase before school began I was delighted to see that I could get a "white nurse's uniform of your choice this may be a dress... (other options)... or scrubs." Of COURSE I chose to get a uniform dress!

I will not rehash all of my reasons, as you have covered most of them beautifully on your site. It took quite a lot of searching, but I finally did find a white nurse's uniform dress made in America by Peaches. Due to my location (in Alaska) I have to do my shopping online. I received my dresses months before classes were to begin, but I gleefully would put one on and dream of the day that I would really be a Real Nurse.

The day after I got my dresses I found out that our school was changing the student uniform color to Hunter Green. I was furious! It had been hard enough to find a dress in white; but it could be done because here in the United States nurses want to look like Real Nurses for graduation anyway. The way I saw it, they were forcing us to wear scrubs by changing the color to Hunter Green... because that's the only thing you can find in that color here. But thanks to you, I was able to find a UK dealer who made dresses in.. Bottle Green.. it looks almost the same.. I won't tell my instructors.

With the initial cost and the shipping all the way across the world, I am paying ten times more than the rest of the students who are just wearing scrubs (and this on a nursing students budget). But I say it is WORTH IT!

Before I was even accepted to my school I made a vow that I would for my entire career dress in a proper nurse's uniform dress. I thank you so very much for enabling me to do this from the very beginning.

I have not received my dresses yet, but when I do I promise to send you some pictures of me wearing them.

Very Graciously Yours,
Future Real Nurse Dawn

From Nursing Times, February 2004

Reclaim Nursing's Identity

While I support the Nursing the Future campaign, I feel we must celebrate Nursing as a distinct profession. Nurses are now regarded as junior doctors. We must retain our professional identity and one of the most visible ways of doing this is to return to wearing 'real' uniforms. In many hospitals it is now impossible to tell the difference between nurses and other members of staff. We were told that moving away from traditional uniforms would help prevent back injuries. Has the rate of work-injured nurses fallen as a result? No. We have ended up with a characterless uniform and lost the professional identity that the patients value so much. If we need to 'market' nursing positively, we need to be visible.

Sarah, Cambridge.

From Beth, February 2004


I was doing some searching on the web and found your site - so interesting! As a Registered Nurse in the United States, I too have been disappointed with the change in uniform styles over the years. I have practiced as an RN for 26 years, and the changes in uniforms and traditions has declined dramatically.

I went to Nursing School from 1974-1977. Our uniform consisted of a one piece dress giving one the impression of a light blue pinstripe top covered top and white pinafore. We received our cap at the end of our first year.
Upon graduation, I worked as a Staff Nurse and wore the traditional all white uniform. We still wore the nursing caps, which I adored. I ultimately went into Home Health Nursing and continued to wear the solid white uniform. I was one of the few who tried to stick to tradition.

My current employer is the first that mandated a uniform other than white - in fact, white was "forbidden". We wore teal pants with various print scrub tops. I hated it. All nursing department personnel wore the same uniform. You couldn't tell the nurses from the secretaries! Then a new nursing officer was installed a few months ago and her first directive was to change the uniform. Altho not back to the traditional white, it provides clear delineations for licensed personnel, nursing assistants, and secretaries. The licensed personnel now wear navy blue pants with white tops, the nursing assistants navy pants with burgundy tops, and secretaries a dark blue uniform designed just for them. It is much neater, cleaner, and provides the ability to identify who is who. Unfortunately, dresses are forbidden, but with good reason. The physical demands of the job really make dresses impractical.

Good job on the site!

Beth RN, Fort Worth

From Pauline, March 2004

I found your Web Pages while seeking information about nursing uniforms available on the market globally. The debate of which is the right uniform for practicing nurses has long ago been debated locally and I expressed my own views on the local newspapers. most of the points regarding the uniform written in your correspondence are valid but the choice ultimately does depend on cultural trends just like other fashion issues. during my student days we wore white uniform dresses with caps and capes similar to your photos, blue on the outside and red lining; in short similar to the British ones. the only difference is that we did not have an apron so the uniforms got dirty relatively quickly. student nurses uniforms were based on the A line model while the qualified staff wore dresses with pleats at the front which gave us more freedom of movement regarding walking or handling of patients. the cap was more of a liability then of any particular use, its past intended use of gathering nurses' hair beneath it long forgotten. the white uniforms did make it mandatory that nurses wear slips to avoid parading underwear. however the belt dark blue and solid as a rock and just as supportive for you back as much as the belt worn by heavyweight trainers, did make us look smart. The capes were lovely and warm and quick to sling on yourself for getting about outside. Shoes, safety or otherwise, were more problematic to obtain locally in the required shade of white. Then dresses got made from thinner and more thin material, with a reversion to the A line dress style, making for scruffy uniform wearing.

I was one of the forerunners in advocating nurses wearing tunics and trousers for ease of movement as well as modesty's sake to avoid parading underwear. The use of caps which are an archaic concept in modern nursing were eliminated. After all you can just as easily tie up your hair neatly whether you have to wear a cap or not, if not for appearance's sake, then for the sake of infection control for yourself and your patients. After all nits can travel two-way. But the advent of trousers had a whiplash effect. Although shoes are more readily available nurses persist in wearing pumps/runners in various shades of white, grey, blue or whatever in varying shades of 'dirty colourings'. This spoils the smartness of the white trousers and the tunic with piping reflecting level of seniority. Even worse students quickly role model themselves on the aspect of wearing pumps, regardless of frequent reprimands. It is a pity because otherwise they look quite smart and if a nurse feels uncomfortable in trousers they are even given the option to wear a dress instead. when asking staff why they persist in wearing sports pumps, which are not safe to use in clinical areas, they invariably reply that work hours are long and tiring on the feet. my retort that doctors work even longer hours and still do not wear pumps yields a silent reply.

Some old diehards are all for bringing back the old uniforms. Admittedly more professional in appearance I have a strong suspicion that they are also equated with a sense of power and authority, just like army uniforms. Of course authority is important in a top heavy administration for top heavy organisations like health care settings, but then junior nurse are being taught that the patient has rights so what to do? Ironically some patients still prefer yielding power to the 'more knowledgeable' nurse as demonstrated by the professional uniform.

A small note on male nurses' uniforms since our school was one of the pioneers in this regard. Male nurses wore white lab coats with epaulettes which fifty percent of the time were not worn (they were detachable for practical reasons) at the shoulders of the lab-coat. Nowadays, male nurses wear uniforms same as female nurses, again with the detestable pumps!

Interesting site. Keep up the good and hard work - I know how much work is involved in keeping an updated website.

Pauline (USA)

From W. Welch, May 2004


I did my training in 1990. Our school uniforms were to be all white, and without blemish. White nylons; closed toe, simple, white polished shoes that were functional (meaning you could run at the drop of a dime). No adornment of any sort was allowed. When I graduated from nursing school, we had a pinning and capping ceremony. I brought an extra cap, and at the pinning, I had my fellow nurses sign it. I have it still yet today as a reminder of the support I had while going through nursing school, as it can be quite a challenge. We had our graduating class picture, all white, caps and all. I believe there was only twelve of us who made it through the program out of twenty-five.

My first job as an LPN required this same attire, but as with everywhere else, scrubs became the norm. I remained an LPN for a couple of years, then went on for my associate's degree. There were very few bachelor degree programs in our area, so 99% of all nurses were either LPN or ADN RNs (assoc. degree). I am glad I did it that way as I was far more prepared for clinicals, and had earned the respect of the instructors. Again, I worked for a few years, and a bachelor's program came to our area. I jumped at the chance to obtain my bachelor's degree, and am now planning work on my master's. Not sure yet what specialty area I wish to pursue. I have been a surgery nurse at heart, so CRNA is an appealing option, but these schools are so very far away. I would not move for it. I am currently a dermatology nurse and love it! I received my associate's degree from a local college, Lake Michigan College, and completed my bachelor's degree at Indiana Wesleyan University in Indiana. Nurses these days have a lot more autonomy and responsibility than nurses in the past. It can be exciting, but also scary. Each chart can be a potential lawsuit in the making, as people have become litiginous, so great care is taken with treatment, decisions, and especially charting. I was just thinking that when I went to take my nursing boards, they were 2-3 days of testing, versus the couple hours on a computer today. I was at the hotel the evening before my boards, and many of the other nursing students were there, all around the pool. They were studying. I was so amazed because I felt that if I didn't know it by now, I wasn't going to know it, and a few hours of "cramming" was not going to help me, in fact, it would only serve to confuse me. It is astonishing all the different reasons why people go into nursing. For most that I've talked to, it is for financial reasons, and yet others, it's because his or her mom was a nurse, and then there are those who, for no reason at all just loved the profession. It is incredible how many different specialty areas there are for nurses....not just hospital and nursing home. There is surgery, heart lab, office nursing, radiology, home health, public health, parish nursing, oncology nursing...the list goes on and on. The only negative thing about nursing is the treatment by "some" physician's. I do not know if it is a "demographic" issue, or if it happens elsewhere, but I have seen some extremely poor behavior by physicians who should be educated enough to know how to behave.

What I hate is that nowadays a patient cannot differentiate a nurse from aides/janitorial staff. I have witnessed inappropriate behaviour from these people, I guess they figure that if the patient called them "nurse" then it gives them the right to give misguided information. I do not see anything unsanitary about the caps. It actually is more sanitary to wear the cap because your hair would need to be pulled back and up in order to secure the cap, otherwise, you would have hair dropping down onto the patient....how clean is that?

W. Welch, RN, BS

From Sarah McD, January 2005

I started nursing school in August 2004. At my school the reqs are white tunic/trouser combo with white socks and white nursing shoes or a white knee-length dress with white stockings and shoes. Having always been appalled by the scrumply appearance of scrubs or trousers, I immediately decided on the dress. Luckily for me I picked up a 1970s-era nurse's uniform in a second-hand shop - being on a student's budget, getting something nice and spiffily new would have been nearly prohibitive. I wear it constantly, wash it three times a week, and thus far it has held up admirably. Teachers gave me odd looks at first and on occasion I am treated naffly for being the odd duck in class. Fellow students find my distaste for trousers to be archaic, but they otherwise do not pay attention to my attire. I have found that wearing a dress gets me a bit more respect on clinical rotations, especially from older personnel and patients.

I decided to "cap" myself at Christmas. I found a pattern for a regulation nurse's cap online and dickered with oaktag (a sort of heavy paper or cardstock) mockups until I had one with which I was happy. I made one up in pathologically starched white cotton and had my great-grandmother (who worked as a nurse during WWII and until she retired in the 1970s) "cap" me with it.

I don't wear it to classes or on rotations as it would, sadly, constitute a uniform infraction. Perhaps it sounds shallow but I simply wouldn't feel quite as much a nurse without the traditional white dress on. At one hospital I visited, the doctors, nurses, and secretaries all had on navy-blue scrubs. The only way to tell them apart was by nametag or accessories (eg stethoscope). I found it dreadfully confusing and was thankful that my garb, while seen as odd by teachers and peers, had me marked to be a nurse of some sort. When I graduate and actually work, I will be decidedly regretful to have to leave behind my white dress and join the majority of American nurses in wearing scrubs.

Sarah (USA)

From Joe, January 2005

It was nice to read Sarah's letter. It is reassuring to read of a nurse who takes pride in her profession and it's tradition.

I have often wondered what the older generation of nurses think of the scathing criticisms which are often made of the traditional uniform. Are all nurses so determined to erase from history the traditional style of uniform?

If the profession is so determined to have a uniform that is practical, as they say the tunic and trousers are then why don't they take it to the extreme and have nurses wear those disposable 'Bio' suits as worn by scenes of crime officers? I am sure they would work out much cheaper than tunics / scrubs and trousers and there would be no laundering bills. They could all be colour matched to the grade of nurse, which would make identification of medical staff and their rank so much easier.

Regards Joe

From Kathy in America, January 2005

Kev, I have been practicing nursing for almost 27 years (in May) &I still wear my cap. I am having difficulty finding a new one since they are no longer required. But when I got into nursing it was very different from nursing as we know it today. We were expected to wear white inside &out (no exceptions!) That included a cap. I work with the elderly. My cap let's them know I am a nurse,not to be confused with dietary or housekeeping. I get lots of compliments about my cap-all positive. I had an ambulance driver remark to me, "Don't we lookold fashioned?" I replied "This is my uniform that I wear every day that I come to work.I am an old fashioned nurse - this is what I was taught to wear when I come to work, what can I do for you?" I think he wanted to crawl in a hole! He was very young and I didn't mind his attempt at humor.


From Vanessa in the Philippines, January 2005

Good day, Mr. Kev!

My name is Vanessa Lyl Perez. I'm a 4th yr student nurse of Velez College, Cebu, the Philippines. I would like to thank you personally because your website has helped me and my classmates a lot.

Me and my classmates had just turned in our study on the nurse's uniform. Because of your website, the idea about doing a study on the uniforms of nurses was formed.

I love my student nurse's uniform. I wear it with pride. But I am looking forward to the day when I can wear the traditional nursing white uniform. Although there is a rise in the popularity of using colored scrubs.... I would want to wear the traditional uniform instead.

Sincerely, Vanessa

From Chloe, February 2005

I'm a student Registered Nurse in Australia, and just wanted to let all you older nurses know that you're not alone in appreciating the 'old-fashioned' uniforms. Looking at the uniforms that they expect us to wear whilst on clinical placements, it's hard to see that they aren't a joke.

Until I started university (18 months ago) the uniform was a blouse, with either a knee length skirt and stockings or trousers. A blouse is professional at least. Now it's been changed, and we're expected to wear a navy POLO SHIRT with JADE GREEN COLLAR. It has to be seen to be believed. It's TERRIBLE, so sloppy and unprofessional, and now that we've had these (remarkably expensive) shirts for over a year, they're starting to fade and pill. Also, we have the choice of skirt or pants again, but with the dreaded shirt, skirts just look ridiculous. there's no nice cardigan to wear to keep warm when not working on the ward, so most people just wear a sloppy joe while eating, travelling etc. Shows what kind of pride we have in the terrible uniform.

I work as a cleaner in a hospital on weekends and holidays. I'm better dressed in a proper blouse and trousers as a cleaner than as a student RN. What a sad state of affairs!


From Peter, May 2005

Hello Kev,

Your website is excellent and from my point of view as an occasional patient highlights how nurses' appearance has changed from the one time neat professional looking uniform of dress, cap and apron to the current non-descript, scruffy looking (let's be honest!) scrubs. I appreciate that today's nurses might well be more qualified and knowledgeable than those of yore, but whilst they are all wearing those untidy unisex scrubs and flapping plastic aprons it is often well nigh impossible to tell probationers (or whatever they are now called) from doctors, let alone the grades in between.

In "cap and apron" times different colour dresses (and even styles of caps) enabled quick appreciation of who was what. I recall that when I had a spell in the Liverpool Royal Northern hospital during the early 1960s every patient was given a little book on hospital routine, which included the said dress colour code. This went something like (for example) Sisters white/narrow dark blue stripes, Staff Nurses dark blue, SRNs a paler blue, Probationers yellow, Orderlies green.

Is it possible for you to include a section on your website where nurses could recall such dress or cap codes of days gone by (also today if appropriate) for the various hospitals around Britain? Such information would provide an interesting historical record and background to your wonderful picture gallery.

Peter the Patient, Leeds, UK

There's already a fair bit of this information on the Guy's, St George's and King's pages; but if anyone wants to submit material for a new page, then please let me know - Kev.

From Satyavati, August 2005

Dear Kev,

I just somehow stumbled across your site and really appreciate seeing how many nurses as well as other folks enjoy old-time nurses uniforms.I've been a nurse for ten years. My class in school was the last class required to wear caps and white uniforms with little gray-striped pinafores. Now the students wear blue polo shirts and pants-they look like housekeepers. I've always been an advocate of 'old timey' uniforms and caps-mostly because the patient response is so good. Older patients especially appreciate seeing a nurse that "looks" like a nurse "should" look. It adds to the dignity and professionalism we present to the public and as far as I'm concerned, increases the trust patients have in the nurse and the overall satisfaction of their experience with nursing care.

A lot of nurses these days either think they're doctors or want to be doctors, and think that wearing wrinkled scrubs of whatever colour makes them more so. I don't want to be a doctor; if I did, I'd have gone to medical school instead of nursing school. I want to be a nurse, and that carries with it a lot of history and tradition, quite a bit of it summed up in the nurses' cap and the school pin (I'm not sure if school pins are as important in the UK as they are here).

I know that there are some areas where traditional uniforms are well replaced with scrubs; for example, in the OR, in some trauma areas, L&D, and psychiatrics. But I feel that the vast majority of nurses would find that, if they'd only "dress up like a nurse" one day, that the overwhelming positive response from patients would be more than worth the perceived "hassle". Since I have been unable to find uniforms I consider suitable, let me offer to your visitors a tip: I have my uniforms custom made by an Amish woman. She makes for me traditional Amish dresses with bib and apron that look remarkably like old-fashioned nurses dresses. Her website is www.plainlydressed.com. They aren't cheap, but you only need a few. As far as caps go; the best and most comprehensive source is Kay's Caps in New York. They have over 3000 patterns and have so much historical information that if you send them your school they can probably find you the appropriate cap. Additionally, if you have an old cap that came from Kay's, it has an ID number inside that you can use to reorder. They also have a website, but you have to order from them by phone or mail.

Here are also some things I learned from my nursing instructors regarding "cap etiquette":

  1. Never wear your cap outside the hospital unless actively engaged in nursing work while doing so (ie, a home health nurse making a home visit)
  2. Never wear the wrong cap for your school. The exception to this would be if your school had never designated a cap for its students (this happens rarely and only in newer schools). If your school had never designated a cap, you can choose a plain white one (should not have any colours, ribbons, etc on it) of any style you prefer. If your original cap is lost and you cannot replace it, choose a plain white style as close to your school's cap as possible. Do not put any colours, ribbons, etc., on your cap except those that you have earned. The exception to this would be to put your nursing school pin in a corner of your plain white cap.
  3. To wash your cap, unbutton it and unfold it in warm soapy water. Scrub it gently with your hands, and rinse. Fold it back into place and button it. Allow it to dry naturally. You can "mold" errant wings and so on using bobby pins to keep things in place the way you like them.
  4. Caps fit much better when you position them over the crown of your head, with the wings pointing downwards towards the nape of the neck, rather than allowing the entire thing to sit on the top of the head like a box. Additionally, they also tend to look better, and have a lower profile that does not get in the way so much.

Thanks for your website, much appreciated!

Yours sincerely

Satyavati RN, USA

From Jeffrey in Canada, October 2005


I have enjoyed viewing your website for some months now, and would like to contribute to it. You really have put together a valuable piece of work here. No doubt nurses worldwide have learned much about their profession from your site.

I am not, myself, a nurse, although I am most interested in healthcare matters. I have had some 22 operations, and nurses have played a significant role in my life. They have my unbounded admiration for the way they handle such a difficult occupation, and disappointment at how little respect they get.

About ten years ago, a nurse at the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, British Columbia, was the centre of what I consider an act of intimidation and abuse. She finished her lunch, left the cafeteria, and, on the way out, she picked up three creamers for her coffee, which she was taking back to the ward.

For the heinous offense of pocketing three creamers (about 5 ml each, and free for all) she was suspended for three days, without pay. This outrage made front page headlines. Thankfully, the public were behind her on this, and the administrators were roundly criticized. One has to wonder what they were thinking... I remember thinking, at the time that the incident took place, that there is no way any manager, or foreman of a construction site, would have ever dared to pull a stunt like that on a man - there would have been a dozen waiting for him in the parking lot... just goes to show you that even highly educated women aren't safe from degradation.

This recent fiasco with Hurricane Katrina has highlighted some of the excruciating decisions many of them have had to make in triaging and caring for patients in hopeless conditions - some of the stories are truly heartbreaking.

Typically, government officials now seem to be leading a charge to track down, and prosecute, nurses and other healthcare personnel, who may have fallen short in their duties during the crisis. It is always reassuring to know that government is on top of investigating failures - all, that is, except their own.

My girlfriend is considering going into nursing. For my part, I intend to support and encourage her in this endeavour. It might interest you to know that the average age of nurses in Canada is now 48 year old, by far the oldest of any profession, and is growing by about 1 year per year.

Keep up the good work.

Jeffrey, Canada

From a Certified Surgical Technologist, September 2006

You have a great site and you are right in the fact that the professional look of the nurse uniform has been lost.

I am a thirty-one year old male surgical technologist that has only practiced the profession for one year in addition to one year of training. It is interesting that I had my training at a hospital in eastern Pa which has the oldest, and still operating, school of nursing in the entire U.S. We as students had a tour of the hospital's museum, which if I remember correctly, has pictures and actual medical items dating back to 1885. They had on display behind glass several nurses uniforms that were worn in the earlier periods. Some were from the 1910's through the 1950's.

Thing have clearly changed. Not only have the outfits changed, but the way the nurses present themselves as far as their lack of professional attitude. Years ago nurses carried themselves in a whole different manner than today. Young women in those days were more mature and committed to responsibilities more readily. I think it coincides with the ways of society in general. Nurses thirty to fifty years ago were proud to put on a nurses dress or uniform to show to the world that they were a professional. They had personal morals and beliefs which enriched their profession and people had respect for that. They were trained to have certain mannerisms and characteristics that made them present in a very professional way.

Today it's all about the money and they don't care about what people think. I bet today that nearly most practicing nurses would not even put on a white uniform or scrub dress if it were required. They would have a fit. They would rather look like a slop.

I can remember as a kid going to the hospital to visit someone and nurses still wore crisp, white dresses with white shoes and panty hose. Most also had to wear a nurse cap. I had a lot of respect for the professional appearance and the mature and in control way that they carried out their duties. Today graduating nurses have no respect for the profession itself or the institution that they practice at. IT IS ABOUT THE MONEY!!!

Scrub attire and PPE* also has changed in the O.R. Years ago it was of the greatest importance that nurses have all of their hair contained and completely covered in the operating theatre. They wore surgical hoods and bonnets that covered every hair and both ears. It was mandatory that hair be tied back off of the face and neck prior to donning a surgical cap or hood so that all the hair was covered prior to scrubbing for surgery. Now you see more and more hair exposed in the O.R. It's a pure lack of "surgical conscience". Hair caps are worn pushed back off the forehead and up over the ears showing off the ear rings. Is it surgery or a fashion show? What ever happened to the fact that hair is a major breeding ground for bacteria and that surgical staff must have it all covered to help prevent a surgical site infection? Not only is the employee at fault but where is the management?

Today you never see a female surgical staff member wear a surgical hood. Women say that hoods are for men only. I wear "surgical hood" style headwear in the O.R. environment every day. Very few male doctors do the same and not a one female will even try one on. Times and attitudes sure have changed, but not for the better. I believe though that these fundamental concepts will return one day, but it will continue to decline until one day it will get so bad that a change will have to take place. Then it will be back to basics again, including medical fashion and proper functionality.

Sincerely, Very Concerned CST*

*CST stands for Certified Surgical Technologist. This is the member of the sterile surgical team responsible for initially setting up the sterile instruments and supplies for an operation. They are also responsible for gowning and gloving other team members, helping in draping the patient, and passing of surgical instruments to the surgeons throughout the operation. There is also one other responsibility that they must fulfill. That person is responsible for making sure everyone on the sterile team follows protocol to remain sterile throughout the procedure. This means bringing to any team members attention that they have broken proper technique and that they must take the necessary steps to regain sterility. This is why myself as a CST am so particular fussy about surgical attire function and hair covering in the operating room.

** PPE stands for Personal Protection Equipment. This would include items such as your surgical cap or hood, surgical mask, protective eyewear, impervious leg/foot covers, surgeons gown and gloves. The items protect the wearer from coming in contact with blood and body fluids during an invasive surgical procedure. Also, the reverse is true. The proper wearing of these items by the surgical team also protects the patient from bacteria, shedding of hair and microscopic skin particles, from the team members, that can all cause a post operative "surgical sit infection" (SSI). These items are to be worn securely and applied properly by every member of the sterile surgical team, for every surgical procedure, to ensure that maximum precautions are taken to reduce the onset of an infection at the surgical site

From Paul, January 2007

Hi There

I am a male worker within Nursing Home in the North East of England. I have worked as a Care Assistant for around 10 years and when I first started all the female workers wore dresses as uniforms, which over time, apart from the main Sister, have all turned to Tunics.

I am only around the 5 ft mark and used to find it hard finding a male tunic in my size which didn't look like a tent, until I took the decision to ask work for a female tunic because they fitted me better. To be honest there is not that much difference between the two and the make I wear by Alexandra code ST298 in Light Blue which fastens with a zip to around 3 inches from the bottom.

I know this is a short message which I hope you will print on your website

Thanks, Paul

From Beth, April 2008

I found your website today. I have been an RN in the United States since 1982.

We still wore the white dresses, white stockings, white shoes, caps when I became a nurse. I worked in hospitals when I first became a nurse. Our uniforms had to be clean, spot free and starched! I loved the uniform at first. As long as I was working on the "floor" it was ok.

However when I got moved to the ER it became a little harder to wear the traditional uniform. Ever try hopping onto a moving gurney to do CPR on a patient that isn't stick thin???? Do you know what happens to a "dress" when you hop on a gurney that has a patient that has some girth to their mid section?! Everyone gets to see what your underwear looks like!

So many ER rooms went to slacks for female nurses. At that time most hospitals were floating certain types of nurses from dept to dept. So you may be in ER one day and ICU the next day or even the same day. That's why all nurses were allowed to wear slacks. And then you have the male patients and/or co workers that wanted to see what was up a Nurses skirt. seeing as so many "MALES" cant control themselves slacks became a better option for most facilities to avoid lawsuits.

Some nursing homes went to the all white uniforms for their staff. What they later came to realize however is that it caused what is known as 'White Coat Syndrome" older people have a tendency to associate white uniforms with institutions in a negative way. Behaviors constisting of combativness to depression have been some of the problems when medical staff where all white. As with everything else things change.

I make most of my scrub tops. I always starch my tops and slacks. I wear white rubber soled shoes. One of the advantages of my making my tops is that I am unique and stand out. No one else looks like me. 9 out of 10 of my residents (I now work in long term care facilities) enjoy my tops and can't wait to see what I will have one that day! Bright cheery colors and patterns perk them up! Also the bright colors and patterns have been shown to help with short term memory. When elderly residents were exposed to white or pastels they were less likely to score well on short term memory tests. When same elderly residents were exposed to bright colors and patterns test scores improved on same tests.

Beth RN

From Sherry, September 2008


I found your nursing website and I love the historical spectacle of it all! I have never seen a larger collection of photos and uniforms.

I went to nursing school in Georgia, US in the 80s and the school has sadly closed its doors as the nursing programs moved to the universities. I can probably get some scans from my yearbooks if you are interested. We had a most unusual bib which required you to flip the collar part inside out to form a raised collar of sorts. Very weird and the bane of our existence. Our caps were very plain though, to make up for it I guess.

One thing that happened in the last couple of years was a reunion where they commissioned Madame Alexander (dollmaker) to produce a doll with the 1950s version of the uniform for those who wanted it. It turned out very well. In any case, thank you very much for the chance to visit these old memories on your website.

You can read more of Sherry in "Nurse Training in 1980s USA".


From Nancy E. Reilly, August 2010

My Nursing Life Has Ended By Nancy E. Reilly August 17, 2005

Forty-eight years ago
In pink uniform and stockings by Hanes,
I volunteered as a nurse’s aide
In a hospital in White Plains.

Young and enthusiastic
But with apprehension in my heart,
I knew little about nursing care,
Asking, where do I start?

It was then I decided
Early in my life
To become a Registered Nurse
And help others through strife.

So I became a student
In the University at Georgetown,
Where my love for nursing
Really was found.

In 1963, I married
Got pregnant with a tot.
And was working in the VA Hospital
When JFK was shot.

Moving to Michigan,
I still needed to learn
So after my second child,
My career took a turn.

I enrolled at the U of M
That is where I earned my Masters
And Ph.D., too.

As my love for nursing grew,
Along life’s winding way,
I decided to teach
As well as increase my pay.

Thus I went into education
Where I am now,
Teaching for over 30 years.
I just wonder HOW??

It has been a sweet journey
Filled with both fun and pain.
But as I move on,
There is still much to gain.

So today, being my last day
In the nursing field,
I wish to say GOODBYE
To all those I helped heal.

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