Over the years, nursing uniforms have evolved from crisp white dresses and caps to scrubs with bright designs ranging from teddy bears to Christmas trees. A nationwide trend has them changing once again — this time to solid, color-coded scrubs, designed to help patients identify the roles of their caregivers.
MedStar Montgomery Medical Center in Olney implemented a uniform policy effective Oct. 15, requiring personnel in four departments to wear a designated color.
All nine of the hospitals in the MedStar system have adopted uniform policies.
The first phase includes registered nurses wear navy, support service technicians wear gray, diagnostic and therapeutic professionals wear burgundy and nurse technicians wear teal.
Phase two, which includes secretaries, receptionists and registrars, should be in place after the first of the year. Each department voted for their color, allowing employees to feel like they were part of the decision-making.
Lynn Eggert, an oncology charge nurse, said that at first, hospital employees weren’t receptive to the idea, since they felt their creativity and individuality were being stifled.
“People didn’t like the change initially, but now I think everybody is pretty happy," she said. “There are still ways to express yourself, such as by the style of the scrubs, lanyards and funky shoes. My shoes are purple.”
Eggert said that now that the policy is in place, she thinks it looks “crisp and professional.”
She also recognizes the value of being able to easily identify an employee from a distance.
Ann Serafinas, MedStar Montgomery Medical Center Director of Nursing, said that the feedback they have received from patients has been positive.
Once the uniform policy took effect, Eggert and other hospital employees were left with closets full of scrubs that they could no longer wear.
She started looking into places to donate them, since she said she would rather her 24 pairs of scrubs go to someone who could use them.
She found Global Links, a Pittsburgh-based international medical relief agency, that accepts gently worn scrubs and other healthcare items for donation, and ship them to primarily rural hospitals and clinics in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“I liked the idea, especially since there are a lot of hospital employees from those areas,” she said. “It just makes sense, and it makes you feel good to donate.”
Global Links Deputy Director Angela Garcia said scrubs are so basic for health care workers in the U.S. that people rarely give them a thought.
“But they are critically important in reducing the opportunity for infectious material to be transmitted between patients,” she said. “Their design makes them easy to clean, with few places for microbes to hide. In the communities we serve, critical medical equipment and medicines are in short supply; the purchase of scrubs cannot be a priority given the urgency of other needs.”
Eggert launched a collection, and as of last week, had already collected more than 500 items.
Global Links volunteers will pick up the donated scrubs by the end of the month, then sort and package them in preparation for shipment to hospitals and clinics in the countries it serves, including Bolivia, Cuba, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica and Nicaragua.
Serafinas said that she is pleased that the policy has helped twofold.
“By what started out as a initiative to improve our patients’ experience, we also have the opportunity to improve the professional practices of other health care providers around the world,” she said. “We are touching other people’s lives outside our own community.”