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Is This School Perpetuating an Unprofessional Nursing Image?

Posted Apr 29 2009 11:26pm

Recently, I read a comment on an online nursing forum regarding the female writer’s newly issued student uniform and her displeasure with it. She included a photo of the uniform, apparently from a catalogue and worn by a professional model, slender and smiling. The student described the uniform as a dress constructed of poor quality thin white fabric, the hem of which falls about two inches above her knees. The photo supported her description and certainly does remind one of a particular nurse image the profession is trying to eradicate.

Her complaint, the photo and some of the 54 responses that have been posted so far have brought some thoughts to the surface. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am of the “old school” era—the dark ages of no electronic charting, no laser surgery, no surgical scrub-style uniforms.

First of all, I wasn’t aware that any nurse or nursing student wore dresses anymore, so that this student is required to wear one—or that they are even available—is a big surprise to me. Second, since they are available, I don’t have a problem with uniforms that are white dresses as long as they are functional—sorry, I just like that look—but two inches above the knee is ridiculous. The fact that a nursing program would approve of such a hemline is astounding to me because I remember my nursing school director admonishing my graduating class, in reference to our matching white graduation uniforms, “Please, ladies, no knees.” I’d be willing to guess that the uniform is shown as short in the catalogue in order to make it less frumpy and more appealing. Unless the advertising copy describes the dress as ‘two inches above the knee,’ I’ll bet it is longer and the hem can be adjusted to suit the student.

Having said that, I do see that a uniform such as the one this student will be wearing presents a number of problems. First among them is that this uniform is well suited to a slender body but would be unflattering and uncomfortable for someone of more heft, or of greater height. Bending and stretching could result in some unwanted exposure. When we are hearing so much about body image leading to all sorts of negative behaviors (bulimia, anorexia, damaged self-esteem), why would anyone deem a slender-cut uniform good for all body types? Then, there is the fact that a dress presents the need for accompanying panty hose. They are evil things, I tell you! Oh, sure, they have their place and I wear them occasionally but the thought of having to wriggle into them daily is downright depressing. Besides, they’re expensive and have to be replaced way too often.

I don’t have a solution for this student. One responder suggested that the female class members band together and lobby for a style that is more practical, more flattering and constructed of better quality fabric. That almost sounds too sensible, doesn’t it? I plan to follow this forum to see how it all turns out.

If any of you are still wearing dress-style uniforms, either by choice or by requirement, please share your feelings about their comfort, practicality, and appearance.

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