5 Fashion Tips for Nurses

Our appearance sends messages about ourselves to others, whether we want it to or not. People pay attention to hair, piercings, makeup, tattoos, cleanliness, and clothing styles of others. As caregivers, you should want to make sure that all of these aspects of your appearance are positively influencing what other perceive about us while still maintaining our individuality. As nurses, our appearance should let patients know that we are trustworthy and professional while still being approachable.

It can be difficult for nurses to feel stylish or able to express their individuality while at work– scrubs are plain and difficult to style, and nurses often have strict dress codes relating to appearance. Dress codes can be useful in the nursing profession because appearance can drastically affect how patients and co-workers perceive us. While this may not always be a priority, nurses should understand that how they look does impact their work.

Know the Dress Code

Nurses should be familiar with their employer’s dress code as soon as they begin working there. There are often rules about what colors they are allowed to wear or what jewelry you can have on. While it can feel restrictive, know that there are rules in place for a reason, and that is usually to maintain a look of professionalism and cleanliness. Which are key to patient satisfaction. If you have questions or concerns about the dress code, feel free to ask the manager/boss them.

Know Your Environment

The environment consists of both the physical location and unit on which nurses work, and the patient population that they care for. If the facility doesn’t require wearing solid color of scrubs and allows prints, make sure that those prints are appropriate for the patient population. If you work with children (pediatrics), feel free to grab the cartoon print and brightly colored scrubs. Kids will love them! However, if your primary patients are adults, keep the cartoons off your body. Patients may see you as juvenile, or consider them juvenile, and lose trust.

Watch Your Undies

It can be a sensitive topic – your undergarments need to work-appropriate. Hopefully, they won’t often be on display, but you should ensure that if they were to be shown that you won’t be embarrassed. If you wear a white uniform, choose a nude-colored undergarment close to your skin color to avoid them obviously showing through. Also, pay attention to the type of underwear you choose. Avoid thongs and that unsightly “whale tail” that can happen when you lean over and expose the top of your underwear. The best type of undies to look for would be invisible seam nude briefs. They are comfortable, don’t show the dreaded panty line, and will not show through your scrubs while offering full and comfortable coverage. Save your saucy undies for the weekend!

Accessorize Simply

Scrubs can be plain, and some nurses may feel tempted to over-accessorize jewelry, makeup, and nail color. While there’s nothing wrong with adding a little personality, don’t go overboard and remember to follow the dress code. Large, dangling earrings should stay at home because they are a staff safety violation. Instead, make sure jewelry worn at work is minimalistic and does not pose choking or skin ripping dangers. Most healthcare employers do not allow long, artificial, or colorful nails, so check the dress code where you work.

Layer Up

It can get cold at work, especially for nurses working nights, and an extra layer underneath scrubs can be useful. Some healthcare facilities allow staff to wear facility-sanctioned jackets, but you should check with your employer before laying clothing over top of your scrubs. Layering underneath scrubs is generally the safest way to go with a long-sleeved undershirt or base layer.

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Dr. Jenna Liphart Rhoads, Ph.D, RN, CNE

Dr. Jenna Liphart Rhoads is a registered nurse and a nurse educator. She earned a BSN from Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing and an MS in nursing education from Northern Illinois University. Jenna earned a Ph.D. in education with a concentration in nursing education from Capella University where she researched the moderation effects of emotional intelligence on the relationship of stress and GPA in military veteran nursing students.