The Top Do’s and Don’ts of Work Fashion and Apparel


Registered nurses were once easily identified as they wore a white uniform, white hose and white shoes, often topped off with a white nursing cap. However, over the years fashion has changed. Nurses began to wear uniform pants and colored tops. Soon the profession switched to colored scrubs, once only allowed in the operating room.

Uniform scrubs are often specific to healthcare. However, moving forward, more hospital employees have moved to wearing scrubs on the job, including housekeeping, therapists and nurse’s aides. This makes it difficult for patients to identify who is, or is not, a nurse. Most of the time, your facility will have a dress code in place that offers you guidelines as to what is and is not acceptable.

Nurses come into contact with blood, urine and other bodily fluids, so clothing should be easy to wash and remove stains. The disadvantage of the traditional white uniform was the difficulty in keeping it white. As the position is also physically demanding and requires physical labor including bending, squatting and reaching, what you wear should allow for easy movement without rips and tears.

Although much of what nurses wear must follow the function of the job they’re performing, most hospitals allow some leeway toward fashion. Your facility dress code will identify the color top and bottom you’re allowed to wear. In some hospitals, the unit is identified by the color of scrubs and in others, nurses are only requested to have a professional appearance and wear appropriate clothing.

Hospitals usually, but not always, identify the length of dress a female nurse might wear. In many cases, they ask it not be higher than two inches above the knee. This is to enhance a professional appearance and to allow the nurse to bend, squat and stoop down without the concern for exposure. Some hospitals allow the use of jackets on which you may be able to apply your own embroidery, pins or appliques, especially when working in pediatrics or neonatal units.

Footwear is another option nurses have in order to stand out from the crowd. To comply with safety standards, you must wear closed-toed shoes that may have a slight heel or are flat. In patient care areas, noise resistant heels are preferred in order to maintain a quiet atmosphere at night. It’s wise to keep jewelry to a minimum, including necklaces, rings, and earrings as they may easily pick up bacteria at work. Anything other than a simple band ring may cut through protective gloves and dangling earrings or necklaces are easily caught on patient clothing.

Another area where you may have the opportunity to make a fashion statement is your hair. In most cases, it’s important to keep it out of your face, neat and clean. Hair that falls forward easily may contaminate a wound during dressing changes, or come into contact with the patient during care or transportation. However, as long as your hair is pulled back, you likely are able to put it up in any way that appears professional, including using bands, barrettes, and other fashion pieces.

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