Medical Scrubs and Their Role in Treatment

A guest post from Josh Weiss

Every nurse wants to be the best she can be, and is constantly working to improve her service to patients and the medical community at large. One aspect that is rarely touched upon is that of the medical scrubs worn on the job. Although it may sound mundane, studies have shown that the medical scrubs worn by doctors, nurses, and those in the medical community affect the way patients view them, and may even interfere with treatment.

Nursing scrubs used to be restricted to white, with a few styles that were worn by the entire medical community. Today there are many manufacturers of medical scrubs, with countless styles and varieties to choose from. It is the responsibility of every nurse or doctor to choose medical scrubs that will help comfort their patients, and provide the best possible care.

A study in the April 2009 Journal of Clinical Nursing supported this theory through the use of a study that was conducted at the Meyer Children’s Hospital in Florence. Patients between the ages of six and sixteen and their parents were surveyed by means of open ended questions and semantic differential scales (SDS). Their reactions to nurses in multi colored scrubs, as opposed to conventional white scrubs, were studied. The results showed that multicolored, unconventional medical scrubs improve how children perceive nurses. This in turn makes the children, their patients, and patients of any age more comfortable with their surroundings and the treatments being given.

Some medical scrubs manufacturers produce lines specifically to suit this need, such as a line of Cherokee scrubs called Tooniforms. These medical scrubs feature well-known characters such as Hello Kitty, Betty Boop, Paul Frank, and others. Scrubs can also be obtained in a variety of different patterns. Dickies scrubs also cater to this need, with an assortment of colored and printed scrubs. Nurses should, however, be careful to adhere to the dress code of their office or department before purchasing unconventional medical scrubs.

In opposition to this, a study conducted by Ohio State University came to conclude that patients and medical caregivers alike appreciate the professionalism conveyed by white medical scrubs, or scrubs in muted colors. The leading colors selected after white were light green, light blue, and dark blue. To this end, both Dickies scrubs and Cherokee scrubs offer all of their different styled scrubs in these universal popular colors.

In some cases, hospitals and large offices set the regulations for medical scrubs. For those nurses who are free to choose their own scrubs, it may be a worthy investment of time to ask opinions of patients and fellow nurses before investing in new scrubs. The preferences they show may be surprising.

Josh Weiss is a style consultant for Medical Scrubs Collection. He recommends Cherokee scrubs and Dickies scrubs for a wide variety of medical scrubs that will fit any need or preference.


  • Riff!!!!!!

    I don't think that nurses should have the ability to wear anything they want because there are always people out there who are going to push the envelope, and when they are going to be allowed to wear some outrageous scrubs then people who are just snotty will say "that's not fair" and feel they should get to wear outrageous scrubs too. We have to remember that we are professionals and need to be looked at that way, we go to work to work not for a fashion show. Yes, we need to be comfortable and there are so many companies out there that are taking that into consideration to fit our needs but the extra flashy stuff doesn't need to be in nursing it could send the wrong message. As a patient I don't need a nurse to walk in with a knife through the heart tattoo patch so we have to step back and think about why we are nurses…are we in it for the money? (hope not, it's really not that much) Yes, we should be comfortable we will work long hours and need to be, but we are professionals taking care of patients and that's key to remember.

  • Courtney

    I loved this post because it specifically relates to a clinical rotation I had in nursing school. As a nursing student I am required to wear an all white scrub uniform. However, for my previous semester’s clinical rotation I was on a pediatric floor, and we were not allowed to wear all white because it was scary for kids. We could wear the white pants, but we were then required to wear a colorful scrub top. And while we were on the unit there was another school that for whatever reason did not change their uniform for the unit; therefore they wore all white. You could tell that there was a difference in the reactions of the children between those nursing students in all white compared to us who had on colorful uniforms. The younger patients were more nervous or apprehensive around the all white students compared to us. So there is definitely truth behind what this blog is saying.

  • Andrew

    I first have to object to the author's emphasis on females as nurses as in "every nurse wants to be the best she can be." I'm a guy, and almost a nurse, and I want to be the best I can be too!!

    With regard to scrubs, I do like the way at some hospitals the scrubs are color coordinated for the job that you do and the colors are muted and professional.

    What I don't appreciate are the many many many choices that women have for scrubs with a great fit for them that is stylish, comfortable and functional, and men like myself are left with "unisex" sizes, and no specific brand to choose from. The unisex sizes I find are either to large so it looks like I'm in a colorful trash bag, or to tight to move.

    Is it too much to ask to get a pair of scrubs that will fit a man and he can look professional with a little bit of style too?? I think not! I propose some of the athletic companies that are famous for making clothing for men make a move into the scrub world and help us guys out!

  • nmedley3

    I wore white scrubs for most of my clinical rotations, White is one of my favorite colors but I did not like white scrubs. I must admit that our white scrubs made us look very professional. We did not wear white scrubs for our or pediatric or psychiatric rotation as it is believed that white would frighten children and make psychiatric patients feel institutionalized.

  • Lauren

    I am a forth term nursing student, graduating in December. Throughout my clinical experience I have found that the way healthcare personnel dress and their appearance is an important part on how patients view and perceive them. All of our clinical instructors and professors stress on us the importance of appearance and are very strict about dress code. Although the white scrubs, nursing students have to wear are difficult (many are see through) and hard to care for, it does make us look more professional and capable.

    On my pediatric rotation we were allowed to wear “silly scrubs,” or scrubs with fun colors and cartoons. I was told by my clinical instructor that they allow us to wear those types of scrubs because we would not be as scary to the children and we would not seem like a threatening figure to them.

  • skasparek

    I am in nursing school and am required to wear white scrubs. At first I didn't like it but I have since grwon accustomed to them. I must say however that I do look forward to adding some color to my life upon graduation in December. As far as hospital policy is concerned, I have mixed feelings about required colors or personal choice. Cartoon characters and such should be allowed for pediatrics. This helps to relax the children. I have mixed feelings about adult unit attire. I do support self expression, however one uniform looks conveys professionalism.

  • skasparek

    As a nursing student I am required to wear the white scrubs. I have become accustomed to them and they don't bother me the way the used to. i do look forward however to adding a little color to my life after graduation. I have mixed feelings about scrub color/design policy. I do think that color and cartoon patterns are a great idea for pediatrics. I have mixed feelings about self expression and the look of professionalism for adult units.

  • Clare

    The oncology hospital I work at allows nurses and assistants to wear whatever kind of scrubs they wish. One of the rationalizations is the patients are so sick and the BMT patients are hospitalized months at a time so different, colorful scrubs on each nurse is a nice distraction. However, the larger hospital system we work in "color codes" based on job description- i.e. nurse is navy, assistant is maroon, transportation is bright blue, environmental services is green, respiratory is black, etc. I do see the advantages in this system. The patients know "who is who" and know who to direct their questions/requests to. I think more and more hospitals are using this approach. However, I am glad that I can show my personality and cheerfulness with different scrubs each day.

  • oosokute

    I attend a university where white is the only color we wear to most clinical and I don’t really like it. Although I do agree that it does change the way the patient (especially if it’s a child) views you. I remember doing my pediatric clinical and the patient I had just was not responding well to me, he would cry anytime I would enter the room. About an hour into the shift, I started to get cold so I went to put my smog on that had cartoon characters all over. I walked into the room to give him a medication and he responded a lot better to me.

    I do also agree that on adult units more people take you seriously if you’re in a solid color scrubs; so you must take your clientele into consideration.

    I also think that if I could make a suggestion about scrubs, it would be to have the scrub color standard for health care workers so that no matter where patients go, they’ll know who the RN is, the medical assistant, etc. That way these health care providers are more easily recognizable. During my clinical experience, I have come across many student nurses who attend other schools that wear different colors other than white; I feel as though they should have a standard color for nursing students as well.

  • Faye

    My university requires that we wear white scrubs for clinical, and everybody in the hospital knows us by our white scrubs. At first, I hated the idea, but people do give a good reaction to white scrubs. As emc1nurse said, you are perceived as more professional. I have been told by other nurses and by doctors that our white scrubs makes them feel more comfortable that we know what we are doing. I have dealt with children who are afraid when they see us in our white. The children preferred bright and colorful scrubs.

  • poetrygirl855

    I attend Madonna University and am required to wear white scrubs while at clinical. I truly cannot stand the white scrubs (neither can my fellow peers). I loved when I did a rotation at Children's Hospital of Michigan. The nurses there can wear any shirt that is geared towards kids, not just colorful scrubs. You can dress professionally in these shirts if they are not too tight or short. The kids truly love the shirts and it is a great ice breaker when talking to children. Begone white scrubs!

  • emc1nurse

    I have been a nurse for several years and I have learned that appearance is very important to how patients perceive their care givers both in a negative and in a positive way. Working with geriatric patients, this is especially true. Bright colors and patterns are often appreciated by the patients as well basic crisp white scrubs. Although it seems my patients appreciate my crisp whites most of all as they seem to feel that when nurses wear crisp whites they are more professional and competent, so they tend to feel more comfortable. Wearing scrubs that are too tight is a definite no-no as well as inappropriate undergarments.

  • Ben

    I'm a male critical care nurse in northeastern Nevada. I've been disappointed by the "colorful" scrub offerings out there in the world. Recently started my own scrub company, using images of pathogens, disease vectors, and pathologies for fabric designs. Very colorful, plus with a little funky medical humor. Would like to know what your readers think. Can be found at http://www.pathophizz.com.