Student Uniforms Shape Our Professional Identities
by, 03-31-2010 at 09:41 AM (3720 Views)
Upon hearing the words “nursing uniform,” a vision of my student nurses’ uniform comes to mind. I vividly remember the color, texture and components of the uniform. It was a light-blue, short-sleeve polyester dress topped with a white apron trimmed in lime green. Regardless of whether you loved or hated the uniform, one thing was certain — we stood out.
Kate Shaw and Stephen Timmons, two nurses in the United Kingdom, recently explored the importance of uniforms among nursing students. They concluded that uniforms play a key role in forming student nurses’ professional identities and maintaining pride in the profession. Frankly, I never considered the importance of my uniform in this way. Instead, I thought it was more of a means to keep us out of trouble.
Christine Bates, curator for the Ontario History and the Canadian Nursing History Collection, studied nursing uniforms and found that they were indeed “active in creating patterns of behavior, attitudes and values that defined generations of nurses.” She points out that uniforms are the face of an institution and function within the institution to create group identity and loyalty. In short, they are powerful symbols that take on a life of their own. Historically, uniforms have helped define our image as a profession.
As our role in the healthcare environment has evolved, so too has the uniform. Whether a white dress or colored scrubs, the uniform establishes a level of professionalism for nurses. It serves as a symbol of our important contribution to patient care and has an important role in assimilating students into their new role. The uniform I was required to wear as a student nurse may have been a “Glamour ‘Don’t’,” but the simple acts of zipping the stiff polyester shift and attaching the clean, white apron — button by button — served as a daily reminder of the duty of my chosen profession.
Click here to see my student nurses' uniform. What did yours look like?