The Evolution of Nurse Uniforms over the Last 50 Years

Nurse uniforms have come a long way, over the past 50 years, from that nurse hat with freshly pressed and starched white dress, white shoes, and white panty hose. Back then, most doctors tended to wear their own clothing and only wore laboratory coats while examining patients. For surgical procedures, they donned white surgical scrubs. As a result, hospitals and healthcare organizations desired a professional, sterile setting; thus, nurses were required to follow the all-white dress code. It also helped people distinguish between nurses, doctors, and other staff.

In the late 1960s, hospitals and healthcare organizations started to change their opinion about all-white surroundings, common in a typical hospital or doctor’s office. The rooms were white, nurses wore white uniforms, and doctors wore white lab coats or white surgical scrubs. Combined with the bright lights of examination rooms and surgical rooms, it was placing too much strain on the eyes.

The first major change was switching to operating room scrubs in varying shades of green. Different shades were used to distinguish roles of each person in the room during surgery, with doctors wearing one shade, nurses another, and anesthesiologists another shade. By the 1970s, green surgical scrubs had become the standard in all hospitals and were slowly starting to shift into doctors’ offices. Doctors realized it was more cost-effective and beneficial to wear surgical scrubs while at work instead of their own clothes. While not all doctors chose to give up wearing their own clothes with a lab coat, many did.

By the late 1970s the traditional white nurses uniforms started to disappear from hospitals and doctors’ offices. Hospitals and healthcare organization uniform manufacturers had developed nonsurgical scrubs and were promoting these for everyday uniform apparel. To encourage healthcare operations to switch to nonsurgical scrubs, apparel companies were designing the scrubs in a variety of different colors besides the traditional green shades. The purpose of offering a range of colors was to allow hospitals and medical facilities the ability to distinguish positions within their organizations by assigning different colors to their staff.

As more and more hospitals and healthcare facilities adopted the new nonsurgical medical scrub uniforms, they realized the benefit of being able to differentiate between staff in different departments, patient care roles, and support roles. By the late 1980s and into the early 1990s, nonsurgical scrubs had also expanded into dentists’ offices and veterinarian clinics. Today, nonsurgical uniform scrubs are the standard uniform of choice. Most young people do not even remember nurses wearing the all-white uniforms of the past, unless they see them in a movie or television show.

Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers have a wide variety of medical uniform choices beyond solid colored scrubs. There are numerous patterns, images, and styles available for your medical facility from Prudential Overall Supply. Contact us today at 800-767-5536 to learn more about our wide selection of medical scrubs and other products.