Scrubs do, in fact, serve to make medical professionals identifiable to the public. Anyone who has ever been in a hospital or owns a television set knows that a person wearing scrubs works in the medical profession. Scrubs are that common. The problem, however, is that scrubs no longer differentiate the type of medical professional. As mentioned above, scrubs were originally worn by surgeons. As the benefits of the scrub uniform became well known, the popularity of the uniform spread to different fields of medicine. Some hospitals identify a certain color of scrub for a specific department. For example, those working in medical uniforms wear green, employees in the emergency room wear blue and pediatrics wear pink etc. Even these types of classifications, however, do not help differentiate between doctors, nurses and medical technicians.
Historically, the field of nursing distinguished its professionals with a distinct uniform. The typical nurse outfit is as easily identifiable by the average person as is the hospital scrub. A traditional nurse’s uniform consists of a dress, an apron and a cap. Although the style of these three items often differed over time and by country, these three basic pieces were consistent. Ironically, the nurse uniform was derived from the nun’s habit. The first nurses were often nuns who would care for sick individuals. As nursing branched out to include women who were not nuns the uniform began to change slightly but continued to maintain the same qualities. The relationship between the standard nursing uniform and the habit is ironic considering that a standard nurse uniform is usually only seen in modern times when worn by scantily clad college students at Halloween parties.
Today nurses in the United States primarily wear nurse scrubs. This change began during the 1990’s and is widespread in the United States and Great Brittan. Scrubs are more durable and functional than was the traditional nursing dress. It could also be argued that scrubs are more gender neutral. Requiring nurses to wear dresses is sexist and implies that the nursing field of medicine is only suitable for women. The increase of men pursuing careers in nursing could be another reason for the move from the traditional nursing dress to the nursing scrub uniform.
Outside of the United States, nurses in many other countries continue to wear the dress, apron and cap combination. There is some debate regarding the switch from nursing dress to hospital scrub in the field of nursing. Supporters of the traditional dress argue that nurses cannot be identified as such when they are wearing uniforms identical to those worn by doctors and other medical staff. Those in opposition to the traditional nursing uniform trio argue that scrubs are easier to clean and more practical in a working environment.