Friday, 11 January 2013

What Nurses Wear - 2

In a previous post about contemporary nursing uniforms, I mentioned the new Scottish uniforms and wondered if patients would find it easy to discern people’s different roles from their subtly differentiated uniforms.

Before Christmas, a relative of mine was admitted to a hospital in the Central Belt, and we were given a small leaflet to help us understand how the ward ran and what to expect. It contained valuable information such as phone numbers and guidance on how to find out what was going on. It also outlined who was who on the ward:

The senior charge nurse, it said, would be wearing ‘a navy blue tunic.’
Under the charge nurses would be ‘a team of qualified nurses wearing cornflower blue tunics.’
Hmm. A while since I’ve seen a cornflower. Is that a dark or light blue?
‘And clinical support workers in pale sky blue tunics.’
Right, so their blue is a pale one, which means cornflower is probably darker – but not as dark as navy… I think.
‘You may see many other health professionals… such as dieticians, occupational therapists, physiotherapists … wearing mediterranean blue tunics.’
Mediterranean? Mediterranean?
Perhaps some colour swatches might help.

I notice there’s no mention of what doctors or consultants wear, or where to find them. Yet while my partner’s father spends weeks waiting to be discharged, nearly all of our enquiries lead to their invisible persons, and the need for them to sign something or decide something before anything can move forward or resolve.

Another sartorial indignity I came across during the year is the Do Not Disturb apron. The motivation behind it is no doubt a sound one, to minimise mistakes in drug rounds by minimising interruptions, but as so often with good intentions, it is debatable whether it achieves its ends, or whether turning nurses into red warning signs/ sandwich boards does anything to foster a caring and humane atmosphere on the ward.

Nurses I have talked to say that many colleagues don’t ‘obey’ the edict on the apron, and talk to them about whatever is pressing, apron or not. A study reported in the Nursing Times found that these tabards reduced interruptions on average from six to five. Not quite as effective as their inventor must have imagined. 


  1. A display board with photographs could help... that's what a lot of GP practices do, so all members of staff are photographed and shown in the waiting area, so patients can identify them easily.
    As a district nurse I wear dark blue with white edging, but there is no differentiation between grades or bands(RGN / DN / band 5 band 6) etc though care assistants wear pale blue and students wear a a mid-blue!! Same problem as you have.

  2. I have just read through some od the nurses writing and have very much enjoyed them, but found me way to comment upon them

    1. Glad that you enjoyed the range of writing. If you want, you can comment on the bottom of that page.

  3. It is so refreshing to read an outsider's view of the profession. Your comments all chime with my own observations and frustration with nursing. After 33 years it still seems quite alien to me and I do wonder what is all about sometimes!!

  4. Well i think it does not matter what nurses wear but it actually matter how do they perform their tasks.
    Nursing Best Profession in 2013

  5. I never really thought of a propee dress code in such manner. Its how the nurses work, thats what really counts. Im learning something new everyday.