Scrubs — those shapeless, utilitarian two-piece uniforms that are now omnipresent — were originally designed and intended for wear exclusively in the operating room. With their homogenous style, drawstring waist, and universal green hue, most were embellished only with the name and logo of the hospital that owned, laundered, and distributed them.
Back in the day, scrubs came with conditions, and the medical personnel who wore them wouldn’t even consider sporting the hospital-issued garb off the property. Doing so not only implied unprofessionalism; it was a visual indication of blatant theft.
How things have changed. From prison inmates to daycare staff, it seems that scrubs have become everyone’s must-have fashion statement. And in hospitals, where scrubs were born, it has become next to impossible to determine if the person walking down the corridor is from housekeeping, occupational therapy, or pastoral care. Who knew wash-and-wear cotton would become so trendy?
Nowadays, many medical institutions have discontinued the issuance and laundering of scrubs, while still expecting staff to wear them. Let’s face it, whether they’re purchased or provided, scrubs are, simply put, the uniform of our generation. And, as with any other piece of clothing in our wardrobe, how we care for and wear our uniform has an impact on how we’re perceived. The question is; do wrinkled, threadbare scrubs and dirty sneakers scream professionalism?
Whether you work for a huge medical conglomerate or a small private clinic, you may not have much say regarding what you wear to do your job. You do, however, have full control over how you wear it. So let’s dust off your personal dress policy with a six-step medical wardrobe makeover (SCRUBS):
1. Sensitivity — Be aware of your surroundings when wearing scrubs in public. You know they’re freshly laundered, but the person next to you on the train or in a restaurant may be beside themselves wondering what your clothing could be contaminated with.
2. Cleanliness — Wear once. Wash once. Repeat. It’s that simple.
3. Respect — If your uniform is provided by an institution and is identifiable with a hospital or clinic logo, show respect for that brand whenever you wear the clothing in the community. Joe Public may not know who you are, but your behavior and attitude will be associated with the label your clothes are stamped with. Demonstrate as much care for the medical facility’s identity as you do for the patients you treat.
4. Understanding — People outside of the medical community may have trouble wrapping their heads around why you wear scrubs to and from work. Some will say it doesn’t bother them; after all, clinicians who wear street clothes in patient treatment areas aren’t likely to change when they leave the hospital, and the general population is none the wiser. But others argue that it’s absolutely inappropriate to be seen wearing scrubs in public. In the end, it pays to be sensible when you’re commuting in obvious hospital attire.
5. Backup — Always have a standby outfit that you can put on if your scrubs get soiled. That way, if you have to pick up the kids or stop for groceries on the way home from work, you won’t be grossing anybody out with blood spatters, body fluids, or tissue on your clothing.
6. Selection — Take a good look at your medical wardrobe. If you are required to wear scrubs, choose to wear only those pieces that are in good condition. If you’ve outgrown an item, or the fabric is faded, tattered, or worn-out, retire that piece of clothing and invest in something fresh. If you don’t wear scrubs, represent yourself, your profession, and your employer with pride by choosing clothing that is clean, meets the dress policy, and fits properly. No matter what you wear, complement the look with a decent pair of shoes.
Dressing well for work does not have to be expensive. Scrubs, lab coats, and business clothing can all be found at reasonable prices, and are often on sale. Kick your professionalism up a notch by consistently coming to work well-groomed, well-dressed, and well-prepared. And don’t leave home without the ultimate accessory; a pleasant attitude!
Sue Jacques is The Civility CEO™, a veteran Forensic Medical Investigator turned Corporate Civility Consultant who helps individuals and businesses gain confidence, earn respect and create courteous corporate cultures. www.TheCivilityCEO.com