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Blog: Nurse uniforms are curious but crucial

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A close encounter with a motorcycle accident leaves Cassandra Leese appreciative of the humble nurse uniforms

The great uniform debate has been continuing in nursing circles since, well it must be an awfully long time. There have been arguments about the colour, the cut, hat, no hat, scrubs versus tunics and trousers, tunics and trousers versus dresses. Pinny, no pinny, plastic pinny…

Throughout this, the poor old patients have continued to get sick and get better while yelling ‘nurse’ at any stray health professional that happens to pass them by, reasoning that eventually they’re bound to get it right. I’ve often explained the different colours of uniforms with patients, no doubt leaving them more confused than before they asked.

While nurses in Wales are currently awaiting a national nurses uniform to enable patients to identify clearly the person delivering their care, I can’t help wondering if they’ll be lucky enough to wave goodbye to those curiously cut trousers that seem to lurk in most trusts. You know, the ones that bypass the waist and like to sit somewhere close to your ribs and happily cut off your air supply when you bend down to retrieve an errant slipper.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t until I came across a nasty motorcycle accident while off duty that I realised the full worth of those pesky trousers and tunic. The traffic had suddenly stopped on what is generally a fast road, and the rapid braking and glaring lights signalled trouble ahead. As I crawled closer, I could just about see the smashed up motorcycle, but it wasn’t until later that I realised the paramedics were already on the scene. Everything was under control. I wouldn’t be needed.

Once past the accident, I recognised how nervous I had been. How ill-prepared. How very different I felt off duty. When getting ready for work and fighting my way into my ill-fitting and usually unappreciated uniform, I suspect I am also preparing myself for the responsibility that the uniform symbolises to me.

The fob watch, the scissors, the black biros, they are all part of my morning routine. Those lace up black shoes that, to be completely honest, I begrudge buying, in some way help to steady me. Those shoes could only be the shoes of a very sensible person. So on the journey home I felt distinctly appreciative of the humble uniform that causes so much controversy.

Whether scrubs, dress or tunic, hat or no hat, pinny or no pinny, it provides not only a physical barrier to protect us, but also perhaps a psychological barrier that prepares us, just a little, for whatever our shift will bring.

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