DOs and DON’Ts for Mixing Street Clothes With Scrubs

 In Nurses Weekly

“Help! My hospital cranks the air conditioning way too high!” writes one nurse from Florida, while another Minnesota-based nurse emails, “There are corridors in my office where I swear there is no heat at all. I freeze from October until May!”

Whatever the climate outside, sometimes scrubs alone just won’t cut it – we need ways to stay warmer at work. This usually means adding a layer on top of or underneath scrubs. This may seem simple, but layering incorrectly could mean:

  • Running afoul of your employer’s dress code
  • Looking like a fashion disaster
  • Turning a practical outfit into one that makes work more difficult.

Here are some wardrobe dos and don’ts to guide you through the winter months.

DON’T Confuse Patients About Your Profession.

Wearing a regular sweater over your scrubs top can be a problem for a couple of reasons. First, it completely covers up your uniform top. This makes it impossible for patients to tell that you’re a nurse if you’re seated behind a desk or standing behind a nurse’s station. They may assume you’re part of the administrative office staff since you appear to be wearing business apparel.

Second, sweaters typically aren’t something you want to launder every day—especially in hot water. Many sweater textiles require special handling so they don’t shrink or become misshapen. Others can be machine washed and dried, but they will quickly develop pills. If you don’t want your sweaters to meet an untimely end, don’t wear them over scrubs!

What about the sweater’s comfy cousin—the sweatshirt? Unfortunately, sweatshirts are never appropriate work attire unless you’re a fitness trainer running an outdoor boot camp on a chilly day. These tops also don’t provide the many pockets you’ll need to hold all your accessories during a normal shift. You don’t want to put everything in your scrubs pockets under the sweatshirt and keep hiking up the hem to get at what you need. That just looks weird.

DO Add Warmth with Nursing Outerwear.

Choose a scrubs warm-up jacket that matches or complements your scrubs. The zipper or button front can be fastened or left open, depending on how cozy you need to feel. These nursing jackets typically have plenty of pocket room. Best of all, they look like part of your uniform rather than office wear or exercise clothing.

DON’T Let Long Sleeves Slow You Down.

Wearing a turtleneck or long-sleeve T-shirt underneath your scrubs is a hit-or-miss proposition. Try wearing a white one for a day, then check your cuffs at the end of the shift. Are they dirty or stained? Did you find yourself constantly adjusting your sleeves up and down your forearms because they were uncomfortable or in the way?

DO Choose the Top to Get the Job Done.

Layering a short-sleeve T-shirt under a scrubs top that has three-quarter-length sleeves might be a better solution to add a little warmth if long sleeves are a problem. If you do wear a long-sleeve shirt under your scrubs, try to find one that matches the color of your scrubs top. This makes it look more like part of the uniform and is less likely to get you in trouble if you work at a hospital that requires color-coded scrubs.

DON’T Make a Misstep with Leg Wear.

Tights and leggings can add a little insulation if your legs tend to get chilly—but they can create a big problem if you don’t watch out. Colored tights or dark leggings under white or pastel scrubs pants are going to give the overlying fabric an odd tinge. The stretchy material used in tights and leggings also makes them tend to catch and cling when layered under pants. This can make it difficult to squat or sit since the fabric over your thighs and knees may start binding. Leggings can also add substantial bulk—making scrubs pants that usually fit fine look much tighter than usual.

DO Make Room for Leg Layers.

If you need an extra layer for your legs, try these tips:

  • Choose a scrubs pant in a dark color.
  • Make sure your pants are a size larger than you usually wear.
  • Pick a blended fabric rather than 100 percent cotton to reduce binding.
  • Try on your outfit at home and check it in the mirror for fashion, fit and function issues before you debut it at work.

(This story originally appeared in Modern Nurse.)

24/7 Crisis Hotline for Impaired Nurses - 1-800-662-0108