You can’t deny the changes and evolution in the medical industry over the years–from medical discoveries and improvement in equipment to the medical uniform itself, which is known as scrubs. Scrubs, popularly referred to as nurse uniforms, are the sanitary dresses that nurses wear when performing any medical task.
Scrubs aren’t meant for nurses alone but for other medical practitioners, too, such as physicians, surgeons, and others involved in caring for patients. Also, scrubs are used for identifying medical practitioners anywhere in the world.
Scrubs have evolved considerably–from wearing long apron dresses to stylish and colorful uniforms. Modern-day scrubs are now even designed based on functionality. To paint a clearer picture, here are seven ways scrubs have evolved over the years:
- The Nun Uniforms
Before the 1800s, there wasn’t much of a professional medical uniform, especially for women. This is because nursing wasn’t really considered an important profession like it is today.
The first set of uniforms was made to look like that of the nuns because they were responsible to take care of the patient, including offering medical treatment to the sick and the injured. This is why nurses were also called ‘sisters.’
The uniforms consist of nun apparels with a headscarf and a cross used to identify a medical practitioner, differentiating them from regular nuns. With time, the need for a proper uniform has been recognized.
- Florence Nightingale Uniforms
In the 1860s, the nursing profession became more recognized through Florence Nightingale during the Crimean war. A training school for nurses was founded under her name in London, giving the profession more significance. She believed that creating a professional uniform for nurses will make society respect them.
Although she didn’t invent medical scrubs, she was able to create awareness for the need for a nursing uniform. The uniform that emerged consists of a long dress pinafore or cobbler apron style. The dress was ankle or full-length sleeves with a hat or a cap placed firmly on the head with pins to shape it, which some nurses still wear to date.The uniform was made from tweed, also called wrapper.
The designs, including the cap and hat, were a key part of Florence Nightingale’s goal to gain respect for nurses among patients and other medical practitioners. This long uniform was designed bearing the image of nurses in mind and not for any practical benefit.
- The Black Robes And Long Aprons
Before the 1900s, medical practitioners, especially doctors, usually wore fully clothed black dresses that look like what the clergy or judges wear. This uniform was allowed since they were viewed as experts in their field, even on the same level as priests because they cure people.
During this time, nurses still wore the standard long dress aprons to protect them from getting infected. The aprons were mainly floor-length dresses that were later agreed to be unsuitable for the profession. The dress quickly accumulated blood and other bodily fluids, transferring infectious substances from patients to those attending to them.
Such is the case of Caroline Hampton that had dermatitis due to the harsh chemical used for hand washing to keep them healthy after visiting patients. This led to the invention of latex gloves and long white scrubs.
- The White Scrub Gowns
The major changes in medical wear started in 1889 by William Halsted, who was Caroline Hampton’s lover. He developed the first medical scrub and latex gloves. The scrub was made as a long white gown. The use of latex gloves was also incorporated to protect medical professionals from getting infections from patients.
Before this time, nurses were usually fully clothed in all-black dress to protect themselves. The white color was chosen to project a neat look. This period also marked the beginning of using white coats by different medical practitioners, which is still used to date, especially by doctors. This eradicated the use of black clothes by doctors to prevent them from getting infected while caring for patients.
- Skirts And Capes
Nursing uniforms remained the same for a long time until during World War 1 (1914-1918). The war left many injured and in need of medical attention on the battlefield and in hospitals. The bulk of the scrubs or aprons, as well as the materials used in sewing the uniform gowns prevented nurses from performing their tasks efficiently. As a result, long dress aprons were replaced with skirts, with a short-length cape worn on it. World War II added a significant change to the uniform to allow more ease of movement.
This new design was created by Norman Hartnell, who was a dressmaker for the royal house. The uniform consists of a wraparound apron, a Red Cross armband, caps, and latex gloves, which further help the nurses become more efficient and productive while carrying out their tasks.
- Male Nurses uniforms
From the 1900s, more men were showing interest in the nursing job. This called for a change of style to nursing uniforms. The male uniforms were designed minimally to include white trousers and a high neck jacket.
The female nurses wore a three-quarter length white gown, usually short sleeves with a polo neck and a pinned cap. By the 1970s, stripes were added to the female nurse uniforms design in some hospitals and medical centers to show a nurse or medical professional’s status. The stripes are seen either on the cap or gown.
Special attention was also paid to the neck of both male and female medical professionals’ uniforms to prevent the spread of infections.
- Modern Day Scrub
From the 1960s upwards, nurses and other medical practitioners are beginning to wear scrubs. Scrubs bring gender balance into the profession as both genders can wear them. The need for a formal uniform, in particular, is being overlooked.
Scrubs today are created based on professional needs and personal comfort. They’re now sewn in different styles and colors, too. Besides, caps are no more a compulsory part of the uniform. The medical professionals agreed that scrubs are here to stay for a long time as it’s more comfortable, light to move around in, and washes easily, making them more sterilized than the former uniforms. Also, they can be paired with any type of shoe, sneakers, and crocs.
Scrubs have really evolved with time and are making medical professionals’ jobs easier while creating an avenue for unique personal designs. From the above, we’ve been able to show how scrubs evolved from simple nun gowns to a professional garment that helps medical practitioners perform their task more efficiently.