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Study: Multi-Colored Scrubs Improve Children's Perception of Nurses

Article by Josh Weiss 
Guest Writer

There are many studies and experiments about different aspects of nursing and healthcare that are published in various journals and clinical references. It’s hard to sift through them all to find the ones that are applicable to you, and interest you. Sometimes they’re interesting enough to make you look twice. Sometimes you’ll even read the whole study in depth. But rarely do they make you sit up and exclaim, “Let’s go shopping! I need new medical scrubs!” In the April 2009 Journal of Clinical Nursing, there was an article that made nurses do just that. It was titled “Use of non-conventional nurses’ attire in a paediatric hospital: a quasi-experimental study.” To many, the whole concept of conducting a study on medical scrubs was intriguing, and the outcome was, in a nutshell, that children respond well to colored medical scrubs. Before this, many nurses had selected medical scrubs based on their own likes and dislikes. It was stunning to think that of all things, nursing scrubs might make a difference on their affect on a patient. 

The article went on to describe a study conducted at the Meyer Children’s Hospital in Florence. The experiment surveyed children between the ages of six and sixteen in two wards of the pediatric hospital who were introduced to multi-colored nurses’ attire. The children and their parents’ varied reactions to the medical scrubs were studied using open questions and semantic differential scales (SDS). They were evaluated compared to gender and age matched controls interviewed before the introduction. Parents were also interviewed. This was the first study done of its kind.

One hundred twelve hospitalized children and their parents were studied. The percentage of positive words used by children to define their nurse was higher in children interviewed after the introduction of non-conventional nursing uniforms by a percentage of 96.2% to 81.8%. Children’s perception of nurses was significantly improved by the use of multi-colored attire. Parents’ perceptions of the nurses’ capability to reassure their children and adequately carry out their responsibilities also improved.

The results showed that multicolored, unconventional medical scrubs improve how children perceive nurses. This in turn makes the children, or any patient, more comfortable. The children expected the nurses dressed in unconventional scrubs to be friendly, helpful, and pleasant. They even expected these nurses to be cheerful and funny. The use of non-conventional nursing scrubs therefore has the potential to ease the anxiety of children due to hospitalization. It also improves the parent’s perception of the reliability of the nurse.

Every nurse wants to do her best to satisfy her patients, and this is such a simple way to bring a smile to a child’s face. In fact, it can be surmised that colored medical scrubs can have an effect on any patient, not only children. It is well known that different colors can often signify different meanings, but that is something that nurses rarely take into account when purchasing medical scrubs.

The original starched white nurses’ uniform was said to convey an air of professionalism and cleanliness. Nursing scrubs became common once doctors began to shed their conventional street clothes for comfortable cotton shirts and pants to prevent the spread of bacteria and germs. Medical scrubs have since gone through a range of colors. White, although thought to be sterile, was easily susceptible to stains and blood spatters. Green soon took its place, as it was thought to be gentler on the eye. Various shades of blue followed. Today, medical scrubs are available in a huge assortment of colors and prints. White is still considered the more formal version of medical apparel.

When shopping for medical scrubs, bear in mind that some colors may subconsciously signify different meanings. Black may be thought of as a symbol of death, with red being associated with the obvious blood. On the other hand, blue is thought to be soothing.

In general, the above study and general experience has shown that soft colors are calming, with bright colors and prints bringing life and a cheerful feeling to what may be a dismal situation. Nurses in the OR and other areas of high pressure tend to wear scrubs in pastel or muted colors that are calming for anxious patients. In obstetrics, pink and blue pastel scrubs may bring a smile to a new mother’s face. Pediatrics can benefit the most from bright, cheerful scrubs. These uniforms can break the ice with a withdrawn patient, and help to establish a bond of trust.

Some scrub manufacturers produce lines specifically to suit this need, such as a line of Cherokee scrubs called Tooniforms. These medical scrubs are adorned with well-known characters such as Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Disney princesses, and others. They can also be obtained in prints that alternate with the seasons. Nurses should, however, be careful to check with the dress code that is provided for their department before purchasing unconventional medical scrubs.

Many nurses can identify with the feeling of walking into a child’s room and seeing a smile light up his face as he points in glee to the character emblazoned across your front. His parents, too, may allow a smile to crack on their tired faces when they see their son’s delight. There’s no other feeling like it in the world. Aside for doing what they’re paid to do, nurses have the power to make a child’s day. All by wearing the right medical scrubs. 

Nurses work hard, and just wearing medical scrubs that are pleasing to the eye can make their job easier. Colored and printed medical scrubs can help put pediatrics, geriatrics, and all patients at ease. As with any apparel, well made medical scrubs can also make the nurse herself feel good, and this can in turn affect the way she treats her patients. It’s a simple choice that can go a long way.

Josh Weiss is an expert in medical scrubs, and recommends Medical Scrubs Collection as a great online source for the purchase of scrubs. They carry a wide selection of Dickies scrubs, Barco scrubs, and more at affordable prices, with excellent customer service.

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