Nurse 'S' Thoughts Of All Things Uniform

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

An E-mail conversation between Dr.Phil and Nurse 'S'

I've recently been having an email chat with a nurse I'll call "S" here's the

P. When did you start your career?
S. I started my Nursing career in 1976 and for the first 6 months we were
wearing a very traditional uniform of knee length cotton striped dress with
long sleeves which we had to roll up and cover when on the wards.
P. Cover?
S. Yes, with those white nylon arm frills.

S. In the hospital grounds we had to wear a cape and a paper cap. Out of the
grounds if we were in uniform we had to wear a long navy mac with a navy
outdoor cap covering our hair.
P. What sort of outdoor cap was that.
S. It was called a "storm cap", it was gaberdine.

P. How about shoes?
S. Shoes had to be black and lace up. Stockings or tights were mid brown or
light flesh colour only.

P. So it wasn't just black stockings?
S. Not for students at my college though some of the Ward Sisters were wearing fully
fashioned black seamed ones at this time.

P. How about other "accessories"?
S. Petersham belts were obligatory at all times, as were name badges and a Fob
watch. No makeup was allowed and only a wedding ring (plain band) as jewelry.
P. Were they 2.5 or 2 inch Petersham?
S. 2.5 I think, I definitely wore the thicker ones later in my career. I preferred the
thicker ones.

P. How long did you wear that uniform?
S. After 6 months we changed to the 'jay cloth' uniform.
P. You mean the blue and white "National" check?
S. Yes.

P. How was that change received by your colleagues?
S. Interestingly, none of the qualified Nurses that spoke to us then were in favor of
this change and all seemed to want to stay with the Hospital 'identified' uniform.

P. What uniform did you have on qualifying?
S. Once qualified I wore a variety of uniforms ranging from the "National" with a
green belt and plain starched cap as an Enrolled Nurse, to the same with red
belt and slightly more 'frilly' cap once converted.
P. Converted?
S. As an RGN (Registered General Nurse).

P. Have you worn any other uniforms.
S. I also wore a green short sleeved cotton uniform, piped white, with a green belt at
one stage.

P. I understand you worked as an OHN (Occupational Health Nurse). Did you have
a uniform then?
S. Once I went into industry as an occupational health nurse the doctor there
wanted us to wear traditional uniform. However, as we were expected to
climb up oil tanks and the like we insisted on 'trews' (trousers) and a tunic top
(much more appropriate). When out on site though, we had to wear steel toe
capped boots/shoes and a hard hat, with protective eye wear and gloves.

P. What did you do after you left Occupational Health?
S. For the last 2 years I've I worked as an ENP in A&E.
P. I know A&E as Accident and Emergency but what's ENP?
S. ENP is an Enrolled Nurse Practioner, in other words I can prescribe and do tasks
that only a doctor could do previously. I'm like Jasmine in Holby City!!
P. What was your uniform then?
S. I wore a set of 'scrubs' which were impregnated with teflon to prevent absorption
of exudate

P. What do you do now?
S. I am currently about to open an NHS Walk-in Centre and I'll be in trousers
and tunic top or a skirt and the top.

P. Thanks S. very interesting.
S. No problem.

Go back to Articles Page