Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Wear For Art Thou, Scrubs?

We touched on what to wear to sit the NCLEX-RN a few blog posts ago, and it’s no secret that NCLEX Prep course often call for a healthy dose of sweatpants and loose T-shirts. And let’s not even discuss nursing school—hello, wearing the same hoodie five days in a row.

When it comes to RNs already out in the workforce, practical and comfortable clothing continues to be the order of the day. However, this definitely wasn’t always the case.

The first nurses in Canada were nuns—Augustinian nuns in early 17th-century Quebec, to be exact—so the first Canuck nurse’s uniform probably looked a little something like this:

Saint Monica Piero della Francesca. Frick Collection.
While stylish, walking around a hospital in a flowing habit is not an entirely practical choice.

As nursing slowly moved into the secular world in the mid 19th century, thanks to the likes of Florence Nightingale, more practical elements were added to the uniform. Inspiration still came from the nun’s habit, so long dresses were still the garb of choice, but a super-starched, large, white apron was added and veils were traded in for smaller caps.

F. Nightingale and Sir H. Verney with group of nurses at Claydon House (CC BY 4.0)
Things changed again the following century, due in part to the World Wars, with long sleeves and hemlines shortened. Up until the 1970s, each hospital designed its own uniform, often differentiating nurses and apprentice nurses by colour of uniform.(1) This is the era many picture when they think of the “classic” nurse's uniform—like Nurse Ratchet's in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

World War II nurses, c. 1943 (CC BY 2.0)
Today, with the strict gendering of the nurse’s dress long gone (buh bye!), the nurse’s uniform has found its latest home in the wide world of scrubs—which is of course what you’ll find most medical professionals lounging around in (read: rushing about in). Whether you go for cartoon cats like Nurse Jackie’s Zoey or cool blue like Jackie herself, just remember to thank your lucky stars you’re not wearing a wimple while trying to insert a catheter.

Zoey from Nurse Jackie