Whether we like it or not, our appearance sends messages about ourselves to others. We pay attention to things like hair, makeup, and clothing, and want to make sure that all of these aspects are giving people the right idea 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.
As a young nurse just starting out, one of my first coworkers was a verified fashionista. Her hair was styled expertly every day and her makeup was perfectly applied. She was excellent at knowing how to jazz up her scrubs and had the most incredible collection of earrings that somehow brought everything together. There was one little problem with her look, though: no one took her seriously.
She was actually a very competent and professional nurse. She was educated and intelligent and personable. The problem was that her appearance was a bit out of the ordinary for working in a hospital. Instead of looking like she was ready for a day of bandages, IVs, and pills, she looked like she was ready for a night out on the town! Patients saw her as not very serious about her job, despite her skill. Coworkers began to lose a bit of respect for her, thinking that she considered her appearance more important than her work. This was absurd, of course, since she showed up on time every day and she didn’t spend any time touching up her makeup during the day. People just assumed she was incompetent because she was dressed up.
On the other hand, another nurse I worked with, who was equally skilled, was often considered lazy and tired. Why? Because she seemed to put little to no thought into how she was dressed for work. Her uniform was always clean, but it was wrinkled and oversized. She didn’t wear makeup and her hair never seemed taken care of. She wore no jewelry and her shoes were old and worn. We all understand that as nurses we have limited time and energy for certain things, but this nurse showed up to work looking like she had just rolled out of bed. This did not inspire confidence in patients or coworkers, and she was often looked down upon as inept, despite her clearly good work.
Fashion and nursing don’t seem to go along very well – scrubs are plain and difficult to style, and we often have restrictions for how we can and cannot accessorize while at work. But as we see from the anecdotes above, our appearance can drastically affect how others see us, and while this is not always a priority, we should realize that it will affect our daily interactions at work. So without further ado, here are a few great fashion tips for nurses.
Know the Code
You should be familiar with your company’s dress code as soon as you begin working there. There are often regulations on what colors you 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. If you notice that coworkers are pushing the boundaries of the dress code, don’t follow; it’s likely that they’ll be reprimanded at some point. Even if they aren’t, keep your nursing integrity and stand with your work’s policy.
Know Your Audience
Well, it’s not an audience, strictly speaking, but the patients you work with can be considered so. They are the people whose opinions will affect you the most. If your facility doesn’t require you to wear a solid color of scrubs and allows prints, make sure that those prints are appropriate. If you work with children, feel free to grab those Tweety Bird or PowerPuff Girls print scrubs. Kids will love them! However, if your primary patients are adults, keep the cartoons off your body. Patients may see you as juvenile and lose trust in your abilities. Do them the service of acting, dressing, and conversing like an adult.
Watch Your Undies
It’s a sensitive topic, but it needs to be said. Your undergarments need to work-appropriate. No, 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!
With scrubs being so plain, it’s tempting to over-accessorize them with jewelry, makeup, and nail color. While there’s nothing wrong with adding a little glitz, don’t go overboard. Statement earrings should stay at home; work isn’t a place to be making fashion statements! Instead, choose a nice small pair of simple or cute earrings or a small pendant necklace. When it comes to makeup, there’s no need for a full face, including eyebrows and false lashes. Instead, work with natural colors and emphasize your best feature. If you have a great smile, wear a good lipstick and go light on everything else. If your eyes are amazing, dress them up with some mascara and liner, but avoid a bright lip. Balance is key.
It can get cold at work, so you’ll often need another layer to help you make it through the day. I’ve seen many nurses that opt for a hoodie or other over-layer to stay warm. The problem is that hoodies cover up your uniform and take away from your professional appearance. Instead, layer down, with a long-sleeved undershirt or base layer. You can push up the sleeves if you get warm and you’ll still be showing your uniform.