Miss Van Rensselaer, one of Florence Nightingale’s first students, designed the first nurse uniform.
After that the nurse uniforms gone through many changes. From the days of floor-length dresses with aprons to present day’s variety of colorful scrubs.
The design of the nurse uniforms has changed based on comfortability, functionality, mobility and the rank of the nurses.
The First Recognizable Nurse Uniform
The effort and dedication of Florence Nightingale’s during the Crimean War marked nursing as a respected occupation.
Later in the late 1800s, Nightingale established a nurse school to spread the art of serving sick and wounded human being.
During the schooling time, a student developed the design of the uniform to distinguish trained nurses from those who were not. And it was the first recognizable nurse uniform in history. The uniform included a long dress with an apron and a frilly cap.
A Standard Nurse Uniform
Throughout the history, a nurse uniform consisted of a dress, pinafore apron and nurse’s cap.
Additionally, in some hospital and medical colleges, student nurses also wore a nursing pin or the pinafore apron that may have been substituted by a cobbler style apron. This type of uniform was also worn by nurses in many countries around the world.
In many parts of the world, the traditional uniform remains common. But some differences have been noticed in Western Europe and North America.
In these two regions, the so-called scrubs or tunics have become more popular. The scrubs dress was also a type of uniform that basically worn in operating rooms and emergency rooms.
Evolution of Nurses Uniform
The uniform of a nurse was looked different with every interval of a few years since its introduction. In the following section, we have discussed all the changes that happened from World War I to present day.
Nurse Uniform During World War ‘I’
From the inception of uniform in the 1800s to until world war ‘I’, the nurse uniform changed very little. During that time, a nurse uniform doesn’t only mean a kind of protection against illness, it also considered an expression of feminine virtue. So, it became clear to the nurses that the former styles of nursing uniforms were no longer practical, they needed to upgrade the design.
During the war, as a vast number of wounded people was gathering one after another in the hospitals, the nurses needed to be more efficient and faster. For this reason, the bulky aprons started to disappear and skirts have replaced the place of aprons. Meanwhile, the military nurses also wore tippets short, cape-like garments and over their shoulders with badges sewn on them to represent their professional status.
Nurse Uniform Of 1940
During 1940, the uniform has changed a little bit, the world war II brought further functionality and improvements to the design. To change the design, the key motive was to increase awareness of microbiology and infection, also lead nurses to a greater awareness to not contaminate their clothing. In this respect, the apron was the key part of a nurse uniform which was easy to remove and replace and could be laundered more easily.
Nurse Uniform Of 1950
At the beginning of 1950, the major changes happened with skirts and hats. During the period, nurses start wearing simple hats those also can be folded instead of wearing large and elaborate hats. Some of these hats were made out of paper.
Like the hats, the dresses also got their upgrade version. And this upgradation happened basically in terms of length, where the length of both skirts and sleeves became shorter. With the shorter height, the dresses became around the knee height.
Nurse Uniform Of 1960
After the change happened in 1950, nurse uniforms became short. And those short dress received one more key change in this 1960. From 1960, open necks nurse uniform began to appear. Nurses around the globe started preferring this open neck design over the traditional one, as these dresses were more washing friendly also easy to wear.
Nurse Uniform Of 1970
In 1970 the dramatic change happened with the cap. After the cap was turned into a simple folded piece of paper in 1970, some nurses stop using the cap completely. The uniform also continued to evolve ever so slightly, and the evolution leads the uniform from an official dress to regular clothing that mainly focused on comfort.
Nurse Uniform Of 1980
1980 was the 100-year anniversary of the inception of nurse uniform. By this time, men also started to enter this profession. So, the entire scenario regarding the outlook of nurse uniform was redefined.
In 1980, plastic aprons replaced the traditional dress. At the same time, the outwear also disappeared. Open-neck shirts and pants began their journey as the nurse uniform.
Nurse Uniform Of 1990
During 1990, the nurses were feeling that their existing outfit is hard to clean and sterilize, then they decided to upgrade their outfit and pants to scrubs, which will make their life easier.
Basically, upgrading to the scrubs was a great decision because they were much cheaper, more practical and more comfortable than any outfit before them.
Present Day Nurse Uniform
After the introduction of scrubs in 1990, all the nurses, who work in hospitals and other medical-related facilities around the world, transform themselves to scrubs.
Now, those scrubs are also found in versatile colors, shapes, fabrics and even prints which allow the nurses to choose whichever they want.
Factors Those Played A Vital Role in Nurse Uniform Transformation History
If you summarize the history of nursing uniform, you will find a few key factors those always were the reasons behind the upgradations and changes. The factors are discussed below.
Nurses have to run from ward to ward, room to room. If their dresses are not wide enough and don’t have enough room to facilitate in running, it will be tough for a nurse to do his/her job conveniently. That’s why nurses prioritized mobility throughout the history.
b) Easy to Maintain
As a nurse has to work in a hospital or other medical related institutions which are the major source of germs, their dresses easily become unhygienic. So, to keep their dresses always clean and hygienic, they wanted to change it into a cleaning friendly form. And finally, they did it.
A dress that an employee has to wear during his/her stay in his/her working area is called a uniform, so shouldn’t it be comfortable? On the other hand, without a comfortable dress, a nurse cannot even concentrate on his/her duty properly. So, realizing this in every stage of the changes, comfortability was a key factor for the nurses.
Truth Behind Color of Scrubs
The uniform of nurses has been changed from a long dress to scrubs. And these scrubs also available in different colors. Here are some colors that have been chosen by the nurses with the reasons why they choose those colors and why they stop liking some.
White was one of the earliest colors worn by doctors, surgeons and nurses. The color has been selected for its vibe of cleanliness, but later white uniforms turned out to be a literal headache.
The reason behind the headache was not only it causes eye strain and visual fatigue but also removing any blood stains from the uniform was a never-ending battle. Although bleach was able to sanitize the stains, they appeared either brown or green after the washing.
Red, the color of blood, has also been proven to uplift the heart rate, but you may not see too many red scrubs in the hospital corridor. Because, depending on the intensity of the shade, the red can influence how patients respond to a doctor or nurse.
Whatsoever, the red scrubs can also be a favorable choice in helping boost the mood of a veterinarian’s or pediatrician’s office.
Just like the red, yellow is a bold and eye-catching color that can raise the heat and your heart rate. Probably, for this reason, yellow scrubs are hardly seen in hospital wards. On the other side, yellow is also considered as an upbeat color associated with happiness, sunshine and positive vibes.
Yellow can be a good choice for a pediatric office or hospice care, where the boldness of this color can help lift the mood. Usually, a person with an extroverted personality tends to choose this color scrub more.
Green is the most common color found on the walls of hospitals and doctors’ chambers. Green is often associated with peace, tranquility and healing. The color does not just give the eyes rest; it also lowers the blood pressure of a person.
In the history of nursing uniform, green was the obvious choice to stabilize headaches associated with white scrubs. Additionally, green helps ease surgeons’ eyestrain and refocus their attention during the surgery.
Blue is another common choice for nurses. Like green, it also has some significant medical benefits. The color lowers blood pressure and eases anxiety. It also terms as the symbol of soothing, relaxing and calm.
An interesting fact about the color blue is, according to a color psychology research, medical staffs who wore light blue uniforms, such as blue-sky scrubs, were found to be more trustworthy.
All the changes of nurse uniform in terms of length, design and color happened throughout history just to ensure a healthy and uninterrupted service by the nurses to the patients.
History of nurse uniform is among those a few other proud histories that were associated with human prosperity or to maximize human welfare.