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Dress Code For Nurses Paper

The issue of a dress code for nurses has been quite controversial for some time now. Interlinked with the discussion on a dress code are often allusions as to the reintroduction of mandatory uniform for nurses. Recent trends are revealing nurses adopting alternate styles of dress on the job. These new styles are the primary causes of contention. The traditional all-white outfit with its corresponding cap and flat white shoes has long been the image held of nursing uniform worldwide. This uniform has distinguished nursing as a reputable profession and has suggested a level of pride and partnership among its wearers.

The image of the nursing uniform has now changed. However nurses should portray a uniformed appearance as this is what distinguishes it as a noble profession. There are two sides of the debate. In one view, the requirement for nurses to wear uniform is outdated and now relic of the past. Others contend that wearing a uniform is essential in order to maintain the professional respect nurses have long been struggling for and to ensure effective service to patients (Spragley & Francis, 2006, p. 55).

The nursing uniform has undergone several changes overtime and those changes reflect overall changes in the nursing profession. During the Crimean war the Florence Nightingale era saw nurses dressed in a long-sleeved gray tweed dress with full-length skirts a matching woolen jacket, a cape, a brown scarf embroidered with the name of the hospital and the plain white cape. Similarly during the Civil War the nurses of the Union army dressed plainly in either brown, black or gray dresses, together with a white apron and a white bonnet (Houweling, 2004, p.

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41). Uniform during these war times was essential as an identifier for the wounded soldiers who had to seek assistance from these health workers. When the profession began to be more formalized in its recruitment and training of nurses, training schools for nursing overtime saw it fit to institute uniform policies as a way of maintaining control over the students. As the field of nursing began to gain much esteem in the public eye variations in the color of uniforms worn came to represent rank within the profession (Houweling, 2004, p. 43).

By the 1940s the color white, which was equated with sterility, was the color of nursing uniforms across the United States. The white uniform therefore came to represent the nursing profession and everything it symbolized. More recently however, the view of the public and some nurses within the profession has changed with respect to uniforms. Nurses are now modifying their mode of dress in conformity to changes in popular trends. Popular styles in clothing, shoes and clogs are being adopted by nurses and stylishness now seems to take precedence over practicality and comfort (Cohen, 2007, p. 56).

Furthermore the traditional white has now been replaced, in most hospitals within the United States, by scrubs of varying colors and print (Burn, 2006). Nurses have argued that scrubs are much more comfortable in the workplace. Furthermore scrubs are believed to be of superior quality to uniforms as well as more fashionable and functional (Spragley & Francis, 2006, p. 57). However, it appears that nurses are taking the wearing of scrubs to the extreme as they are now adopting any and all colors and designs including “solids, stripes, plaids, cartoons, and any other design or color imaginable” (Ibid, 57).

Some are of the opinion that it hardly matters what a nurse wears. Spragley and Francis (2006) are, however, of the view that a nurse’s style of dress presents a very lasting impression on patients (p. 56). Furthermore research has found that the wearing of a uniform is more often than not associated with professionalism. Additionally a uniform connotes power for its wearers. There has also been a demonstrated correlation between the wearing of a nurses’ uniform on identity, modesty, occupational health, status, power and safety (Ibid).

Burn (2006) contends that the way nurses have modified their mode of dress is contributing to the poor light in which they are now viewed by the public. Furthermore, decreasing esteem for the nursing profession is having other serious effects particularly in creating and worsening the nursing shortages being experienced nationwide. One major objection to uniforms by nurses is that they wish to be identified with what they do, which is demonstration of their capabilities, knowledge and experience rather than with what they wear (Spragley & Francis, 2006, p. 56).

A further objection is that uniforms lack individuality. Nurses, arguing against restrictions in the way they dress and correspondingly on proposals for nursing uniforms, have put forward the First Amendment argument. They contend that, as per the U. S. Constitution, they have the right to free speech and mode of dress which includes the wearing of adornments and body piercings (Smith, 2003, p. 22). However, for the sake of safety it is necessary that restrictions be made on the way nurses dress, the type of jewelry they wear and the present of tattoos on their bodies (Cohen, 2007, p.

56). While administrators cannot arbitrarily restrict dress, explicit guidelines must be laid down and enforced to ensure that nurses comply with dress code specifications (Smith, 2003). Nevertheless a uniform is essential for several practical reasons. Within the hospitals nowadays not only nurses but most hospital workers are wearing scrubs so it is difficult to distinguish between nurses, doctors, housekeepers and others, without the aid of a name tag. The name tag is visible only up close making it difficult for patients to immediately identify a nurse for assistance.

However, as Spragley and Francis (2006) emphasize, it is essential they nurses are easily identifiable. A uniform is one such way of identifying nurses easily. There are many other feasible reasons for the wearing of the uniform but the most pertinent must be consideration of the best interest of the patients that are served by these nurses. REFERENCES Burn, J. (2006, Mar). An experiment in white: One nurse’s attempt to identify a profession by uniform. American Journal of Nursing, 106(3), 64A-64C.

Cohen, S. (2007, Jan). Look professional while motivating staff toward certification. Nursing Management, 38(1), 56. Houweling, L. (2004, Apr). Image, function, and style: A history of the nursing uniform. American Journal of Nursing, 104(4), 40-48. Smith M. H. (2003, Feb). Body adornment: Know the limits. Nursing Management, 34(2), 22-24. Spragley, F. & Francis, K. (2006, Oct). Nursing uniforms: Professional symbol or outdated relic? Nursing Management, 37(10), 55-58.

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