1. Kim, Catherine
  2. Parsons, Sandy LPN

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It's unfortunate that the heated debate on restoring professionalism to nursing has centered on what nurses wear ("An Experiment in White,"Hospital Extra, March). While nurses are not always viewed as educated professionals by patients, colleagues, and the public, wouldn't a return to white uniforms be a Band-Aid solution to the underlying problem?


There are many potential drawbacks in returning to the traditional white uniform. Nurses constantly deal with bodily fluids; white uniforms will get visibly soiled. The white uniform conjures the historic image of nurses as angels of mercy. This ethereal image of nurses has little resonance in the day-to-day lives of working nurses today. Nurses are highly trained, skilled professionals who get their hands (and uniforms) dirty and save lives. There must be better ways to boost the professional image of nurses without resorting to stereotypes.


As a nursing student, I believe it's expertise in the art and science of nursing that makes a nurse a professional-not just a physical-laborer. If nurses want to improve their image, they must be vigilant about their professional motivations; discuss the role of nursing with their patients; and provide competent, compassionate care. We should focus on the real issues of staff retention, improved nurse-patient ratios, updated clinical training, and staff morale instead of spending time and money on standardizing what nurses wear.


I have been a nurse for 23 years. As a certified nursing assistant, I was required to wear all white. In school we wore white uniforms and white caps without the stripe. (On graduation day we earned the stripe.) White was worn with a sense of dignity and pride, and the cap was an added honor, distinguishing us from the rest of the hospital personnel.


When I worked on the floor as a nurse, we were required to wear the cap, our nursing-school pin, and an all-white uniform. I loved it. When the caps were no longer required a few years later, I was at first relieved but later disappointed. Not long afterward, scrubs became the rage. I adapted slowly, at first wearing a scrub jacket over my whites. I was often asked whether I was a nurse. Somewhere along the way, the nursing-school pin was also abandoned as something to be proudly worn on the job.


Occasionally I still wear all white, even though coworkers-usually newer nurses-don't understand why. I'm always surprised at how many people still wish to see nurses in white; some even ask why we don't wear caps. I usually don't know how to answer them. I would love to see the profession rise to the honor that wearing white used to represent.