Can a return to formal white nurse uniforms make a difference for patients?

In 1917, women looked more like nuns than nurses. But some nurses believe they've lost more than that with their modern scrubs and want a return to at least some starch-white formality. (Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

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In the hundred years since Canada's nurses tended to patients in the Great War, they've lost the white veils, the long blue dresses, the pinafores. Some nurses believe modern informal scrubs get in the way of their duties and they wouldn't mind if a little more fashion care returned to the profession of caring.

In the earlier days of the profession, nurses took pride in their crisp, white uniforms, complete with pointed caps, skirts, stockings and matching shoes. But their dress -- like their profession -- has evolved. Today, you're more likely to find a nurse in Mickey Mouse scrubs or yoga pants.


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RN Karen Morris (tallest in photo) dresses in a more traditional white uniform and says the patients approve.

"Back in the 90s, when we got away from the white uniform we were thinking well this is kind of nice, the white is kind of boring and this brightens us up. But when I look back, that is when I felt that nursing became casual and I say that because when the patient can not identify the registered nurse, that becomes a problem. They may walk up to anybody who wears scrubs and ask them for something that can be quite embarrassing and I feel that an RN when she can be identified, that gives the patient a sense of security."

Karen Morris, registered nurse in rural Newfoundland for the last 30 years

Other nurses, as well as some professional associations and one provincial nursing union are making the case for a return to standardized uniforms. Still, like many things medical, it helps to get a second opinion.

Judy Bain is a registered practical nurse in Kenora, Ontario.

Tracy Zambory is a registered nurse and the President of the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses. The union has initiated a "Wear White" campaign and Tracy Zambory was in Regina.


Have thoughts you want to share? Are a nurse? Add your opinion on uniforms.

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This segment was produced by The Current's Sarah Grant, Kristin Nelson and Deanne Bender.

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