Nurses uniforms are stupid

Sometimes I will write a blog and put a deliberately provocative title at the top to hook people in … however this time my sentiments are exactly what the title says … nurses uniforms are stupid !!

I hate to state the obvious but it’s been hot … very hot … and when it’s hot I starts to see a plethora of tweets about 2 things from nurses uniforms and getting enough drinking water. Whilst I would love to tackle both topics that would make this blog too long (& I have already blogged about hydration HERE) morning so I am going to focus solely on the uniform issue.

I have been nursing over 20 years now and the uniform has not changed. In fact I have a picture of me as a newly qualified nurse at the Bristol Royal Infirmary and the uniform I am wearing is still the uniform at the beloved BRI.


I literally can hear some of you saying but they look smart, we love buckles and belts … and what about the hats and capes … those uniforms made us look like proper nurses! Well I am not so sure ….In the words of Professor June Girvin “We should beware of misplaced nostalgia.  As George Ball said, and we would do well to remember, ‘Nostalgia is a seductive liar’.  I wouldn’t go back there for anything.” (Nostalgia 2018)

So lets look at this through a different lens instead of rose tinted spectacles:

Hospitals, care homes, clinics and even peoples homes are hot places .. even in the winter! A uniform that is made out of tent canvass (the type of uniform you have to wash a million times before it relaxes enough not to chaffe and that can stand up on it’s own) is going to make us sweat, which is not only unpleasant for the people we care for, who we are often in close quarters with,  but also excessive sweating can contribute to dehydration … which lets face it (I am pulling no punches here) is a patient safety issue. Then there’s the whole dress issue – I have to say I have lost count of the about of times a patients hand has gone under my dress, leading to embarrassment for me and (if unintentional) embarrassment for the person I am caring for.  Not to mention the whole belt and buckle thing … have you tried moving about when restricted by one of those belts? Surely that is not conducive to our own health and safety? My belt and buckle are safely tucked away in a drawer and that is where they are staying !

Why do uniform traditions and legacies still persist in nursing? Lets look at policing and the uniform change over the last 50 years:

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Or the fire service:

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Or girl guiding:

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Or Sainsburys’s:

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I have a small confession to make now …. I confess to having started a small uniform revolution where I do some bank shifts from time to time.  The uniform is made from the aforementioned tent canvass and has a high collar and a popper down front (don’t even get me started on poppers and nursing uniforms!) … it’s hot, even in winter, it’s impractical, I can’t breathe or move in it … so I hopped onto the internet and bought a uniform of the same colour … a smart, light weight scrub top. The top allows me to move freely, not sweat and is comfy and up to the tough job of nursing … I love it.  At first I thought no one had noticed that I was technically was in the incorrect uniform and then a few weeks ago (when the hot weather started) people started asking me where I got it from … so I told them.  I have to admit to smiling a little when I last went into work and heard that the uniform was being changed to the exact top I have been wearing.  Of course I do not recommend this approach for everyone, there is a time and a place to the “seek forgiveness not ask permission” approach – I am very fortunate to have a understanding and flexible employer … however if you feel your uniform isn’t up to the job then I urge you to say something and start your own revolution.

Although the title of this blog could be construed as provocative I have to say with confidence that I stand by it … nurses uniforms are stupid.  So lets stop the nostalgia and get to grips with uniforms that are fit for modern nursing and allow us to do our jobs.

3 thoughts on “Nurses uniforms are stupid

  1. I am so glad someone of your clout has said something out loud… I just hope more employers see this blog post – as a student nurse, the uniform is really thick and unbelievably hot. When giving a patient personal care in an enclosed bathroom – it is like going into a sauna and getting hot and bothered can lead to frustration and want for a need to rush the job just to get out. However, in order to deliver safe patient care – you cannot leave your patient, so coming out for a breather is not an option – employers would do well to take this into consideration when prescribing a uniform that they are not personally a) going to wear – or b) if they wear it, they are unlikely to be getting in a sauna with a patient who has all the time in the world while you slowly melt.

    Hopefully – someone will see sense and put us all in scrubs. Most doctors wear them now, everyone in theatres wears them (and they come into contact with bodily fluids, esp blood), and overseas – particularly in the US – most nurses wear scrubs… lets do away with high collared thick canvas garments – and dress us so we can do our jobs a lot better in weather like this. Like you say though – it’s a year round thing really because hospitals are like greenhouses – and if you get a ward with south facing windows – well, that’s a whole other story…

    Thanks for the smile – but for saying it how it is too – and yes, other professions have adopted uniforms conducive to their jobs – its about time nursing did too.

  2. Thanks for your comment Paula – it’s been lovely to see all of the reactions to this blog post. I think that we all have to start our own revolutions, stand together and say it like it is, present the case calmly but most of all with one voice. We need a uniform that is fit for purpose

  3. Hi! I just found your blog and am so excited! Your writing is spot on. Fortunately, I practice in a hospital where uniforms requirements are exceedingly flexible. My unit does not even require uniforms (psychiatric). However, I prefer wearing uniforms to be tidy and easily recognizable. Koi makes lovely, moisture-wicking uniforms with great pockets and attractive styling.

    I am planning to start a nursing blog and look forward to learning more. I need and welcome advice! Many thanks!

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