Do Nursing Uniforms Need To Be in White?

Do Nursing Uniforms Need To Be in White? The once pristine and starched white nursing uniform and the pert cap gave way to generic scrubs, unisex scrubs and then colorful and printed scrubs. Recently, there’s been some awareness in the health care management sector that the lack of a nursing uniform creates confusion among patients.

Patients Prefer Nurses In White

The general feedback is that patients feel confused after seeing several people in scrubs. They are not able to identify who’s a nurse and who’s not. Especially, elderly patients suffer a lot as they tend to communicate their complaints to any medical worker in a scrub, believing him or her to be a nurse, only to find out that he or she is not a nurse. With literally every hospital worker wearing different colored scrubs and sometimes printed and designer scrubs, it’s very hard for everyone to identity a worker’s role. If the patients have it tough, then the friends and family of patients don’t know who is who and end up asking all hospital staff for updates on their loved ones.

Hospitals Feel Nurses Should Wear White

As a result, several hospitals throughout the United States such as the Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Miami Valley Hospital in Ohio and Cleveland Clinic have decided to issue strict nursing uniforms to the nursing staff. Several hospitals and health care facilities are advocating white uniforms for nurses. The University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics has even declared a new dress code for its nurses, comprising of white scrub tops with red, navy or black bottoms. These hospitals feel that enforcing standard uniforms is a way of communicating that the nursing staff takes its job seriously.

Nurses Aren’t Happy Wearing White

It’s needless to mention that not all nurses are happy with the “back to white” regulations. However, reverting to the white uniform shows improved satisfaction from the perspective of patients and nurses as well. Patients and visitors were shown pictures of nurses in white and in colorful scrubs. These people, research shows, are more likely to assign professional traits such as efficiency and of competence to nurses wearing white, as opposed to nurses wearing colorfully printed scrubs.

White Uniforms Are Nightmarish To Maintain

The other side of this debate is a very administrative and housekeeping concern that both health centers and nursing staff feel. Over the years, white nursing uniforms gave way to colored scrubs not just because colored scrubs are more convenient. The fact is that colored scrubs can absorb dirt and stains better than whites can. White uniforms do tend to become dirty very quickly. Maintaining them and ensuring that the uniform remains white, clean and crisp each day can be a taxing task, one that neither the nurses nor the hospitals like.

Should Nurses Wear White?

This brings us to the million-dollar question. Do nursing uniforms need to be in white? Opinions are divided on this subject with some parties, especially the nurses themselves, advocating colored and freestyle scrubs over white uniform regulations.

With doctors, nurses, medical students, physiotherapists, housekeeping staff and literally every kind of hospital worker wearing color scrubs, identifying nurses has become a huge task not just for patients but also for visitors and other staff.

In England, there’s a cry that nurses should wear the same uniform to help patients identify them more easily. Members of the nursing profession have voted for this move in England. The vote for the return of the white uniform came just a week after it was announced that Broomfield Hospital was going to reintroduce Florence Nightingale-style caps. England is even considering a single national uniform for nurses, though there have been no updates on this yet. However, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are already planning to re-introduce a standard dress code for nurses. Such a move would take nursing uniforms back to a by-gone era when all nurses were dressed almost identically.

In the United States, hospitals are trying to judge this issue fairly while trying to decide patient convenience, dress convenience and comfort for nurses and also the maintenance aspects of the white uniform. While the white uniform would impart a classic nursing image and symbolize professionalism, white is a hard color to maintain. This maintenance alone can become a housekeeping nightmare for large hospitals.


The ongoing debate about whether nurses should wear only white uniforms is not over yet, and no decision seems to be in sight. Some hospitals and health care centers have gone ahead and introduced their own uniform code for nurses, which seems to be working for them. However, coming up with a standardized uniform code for all nurses in health care centers throughout the United States will only happen if the Government takes up the matter.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Stephen April 23, 2011 at 7:13 am

my god in heaven, have mercy, i wish nurses would stop dragging us continually back into the 19th century. Find a new identity ,let this white uniform thing die a hard death. i interviewed hundreds of pt.s and none of them cared about the uniform or associated it with being less professional. The main concern was there care and how the Nurse acted proffesional or not that bred confidence .please kill all these asswholes who continue to drag us down take your white uniforms and shove them straight up your white ass !!!!

gagan April 23, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Hi Stephen,

Thanks a lot for commenting. I completely agree with you. Its time to say bye bye to white nursing uniforms. Hoping to read more of your comments in future

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