1. Humphrey, Carolyn J. MS, RN, FAAN

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Several months ago I asked the question, What do you think home care nurses should wear? I was swamped with responses from home care professionals sharing their thoughts and their agency's policy.


The results indicate how your colleagues responded. There was no limit to the responses you could choose, and many themes emerged. The items are rank-ordered based on the frequency of the responses.


1. A bright, easily identifiable RN badge


2. Anything, so long as it is clean and neat


3. A uniform of any color


4. A white uniform


5. Scrubs, any color or print


6. Regular street clothes with a name tag



Most felt they could wear anything so long as it was clean and neat and worn with an easy-to-read RN badge. This was not surprising, because recently many agencies have adopted a very liberal dress code, but the tide may be turning. Based on patient and family complaints, many hospitals have instituted uniform policies that either require their nurses to wear white uniforms, or the more popular trend, making all employees wear color-coded scrubs unique for the setting-blue for nurses, yellow for housekeeping, pink for aides, and so forth.


Why Is This Question Important?

I wanted to learn more after hearing from a reader asking if HHN had published anything about uniform policies. This reader's home health agency's parent hospital required that all patient care employees wear color-coded scrubs, because its competitive hospital had adopted this policy some months ago. (No matter that the nurses in one hospital wore pink, whereas they wore purple in the other hospital!!) The reader felt, as I do, that scrubs remind patients of operations, emergencies, and acute care facilities. Because we deliver care in the home, we should look more approachable.


When I practiced, I wore navy uniforms in the winter and light blue pinstripes in the summer. I do believe in a dress code for visiting staff that's uniform but not a policy demanding uniforms. Wearing dark cotton slacks, light shirts, dark sweaters, and coats has always been my choice. And no fancy jewelry!! Why?


1. It creates a consistent and professional image of visiting staff in the home, community, and as they represent the agency.


2. It provides cost-effective clothing that is easily washable. Do you really pick up your children or stop for groceries after work in the clothes you've worn all day in the interesting places you've been? That's why white uniforms seem so impracticable.


3. Staff doesn't have to judge what to wear, and managers don't have to be the "clothes police."



Yes, that's my feeling and this is an editorial. But I believe the respondents felt the same way.


The question was, "What do you think should be worn?" not "What do you wear?" In the "other" column, most wore navy slacks and white tops; a few wore white laboratory coats, and only one a colorful scrub top with pants. Was this due to agency policy, some of the sentiments expressed previously, or suggesting that this was the appropriate dress? Of that I can't be sure.


I am sure of several things. From this feedback and my own experiences, I know nurses want to look professional, be respected and acknowledged for their expertise, and easily develop a patient and family relationship. Scrubs were created to protect the patient and the nurse from each other. Scrubs are the least attractive clothing for a predominantly female profession. Patients recover and face terminal illness better in the comfort of their homes.


Why would we want to walk in reminding them of the hospital environment?