RN Uniforms Tips And Advice

As an RN you need to look professional at all times, and this means that you need specific RN uniforms that are appropriate for your line of work. RN uniforms can vary significantly based on a number of factors. The important thing is that you get a uniform that is appropriate for your situation and for the institution that you work for.

What You Can Wear


The tradition for a nursing uniform is white. The reasoning behind this was, in the past, that a white uniform would set the nurses apart from the technicians and aides with whom they worked alongside. Some hospitals still cling to this tradition.

Pros of white uniforms:

  • They tend to denote pride in the profession
  • Older patients are more comfortable with nurses in white


  • They stain easily
  • They tend to be see-through

Other hospitals require nurses to wear a certain color based on a number of different factors such as the floor they work on or the ward they work in.


In a hospital with more relaxed dress codes RN uniforms may have patterns and designs on them. These make uniforms more attractive. A big complaint from nurses is that their uniforms are rather unattractive and this is a way to combat the problem. This has its benefits. For example in a children’s ward it may put the children at ease to see nurses in more colorful and relaxed clothing. It also allows a level of self-expression and has been shown to cheer up patients to a certain degree.

Hairstyles, Fingernails, Etc

Patients have certain expectations of nurses when it comes to how they dress. This also extends to their general appearance. Patients usually expect the following:

  • Hair: patients expect nurses to wear their hair back and off their shoulders.
  • Fingernails: Generally speaking patients expect nurses to have short fingernails
  • Uniforms: patients do not seem to care what uniforms RNs wear, as long as they are easy enough to identify

This is related to cleanliness; patients associate neat hair and short nails with cleanliness which puts them at their ease in the nurse’s presence.


Comfortable footwear is an essential part of being an RN as you will be on your feet all the time. The place you work at will usually have a code regarding what you need to wear on your feet when you are working. Usually white sneakers are acceptable. For your own comfort and safety it is better to have shoes that have good arch support and that include non-slip soles. Again the color and type of footwear will most likely be determined by the hospital or medical facility that you work for.


Nurses will often wear something under their clothes and their uniforms to provide them with some support for their backs. This is especially necessary in cases where the RN in question in working with elderly patients that may require lifting. Although this is not strictly part of the RN uniform it is an important thing to think about if you are wondering what you should wear as an RN nurse. If heavy lifting is required in your job, as it frequently will be, then this s a great precautionary measure for you to take.


Although most jewelry is out, watches and stethoscopes are usually required parts of RN uniforms. Apart from that most other accessories are out, although hospitals may have different policies on things such as earrings. Watches and stethoscopes can be interesting. A watch can be any design you like, as long as you are able to take a pulse with it. Stethoscopes tend to be more traditional, but they don’t have to be. If, for example, you are going to work with children you may want to get a stethoscope that has cartoons on it.

Different Types Of RN Uniforms

There are different types of uniforms, some of which have been discussed already, and some that we still need to consider.

Patterned Scrubs

In some cases you will be allowed to wear scrubs of any color that you prefer. You will basically have your own unique scrub design. Some hospitals require all nurses to wear the same color or patterned scrubs. This really will depend on where you work and what the policies at the institute are regarding clothing for nurses. Patterned scrubs are, however, becoming more and more popular as hospitals begin relaxing their dress codes.RN Uniforms

Hospital Scrubs

If you are an RN that works in an operating room you will have to wear scrubs designated by the hospital. When you are required to be in the operating room you will simply choose a set of scrubs from the various options provided. Often there will not be one in the right size for you, but this is not what is important. The reason for this is that the scrubs need to be kept at a certain level of cleanliness for the operating room, so the hospital takes responsibility for laundering these particular scrubs.

White Uniforms

As mentioned previously, white uniforms are often traditionally worn in many hospitals. This is essentially so that patients will be able to easily identify the RN from among the many people that they deal with everyday. Other hospitals have solved this problem by:

  • Having the RNs wear a badge stating their position
  • Having the word “RN” sewn into the scrubs of the nurses regardless of the color

Although there are reasons to wear white RN uniforms, there are also ways to avoid them if that is what you would really prefer to do.

Casual Attire

There are some situations in which you may want to look friendly and approachable and so casual attire is more appropriate. Such places are:

  • Drug rehabilitation clinics
  • Mental health institutions
  • Children’s wards and hospitals
  • Retirement homes for the elderly

If you work in any of these settings you may be given the opportunity to wear whatever you like to work. This is not a guarantee, however. Often even in these settings the institute you work for will have a set RN uniform that you will have no choice but to wear.

Business Dress

As an RN you may work yourself up to the position of an administrator. Once you have left the arena of actual health care for a more managerial position then RN uniforms mostly fall away altogether. Usually it is appropriate for you to simply wear a business suit or dress as if you worked in any other office in any other job. This allows you to set yourself apart from the other nurses and denotes your role in the hospital setting clearly so that there is no confusion. It is also more practical for the nature of the work you will be doing.

Military Uniforms

If you are a nurse that is part of the armed forces then you will wear RN uniforms according to your branch of service in the armed forces. These uniforms can differ slightly from one another, but in a military setting things are more standard. There will be stricter rules about what you can and cannot wear if you are an army nurse. This is something that comes with belonging to the armed forces and it extends to all walks of life. The uniforms will also set you aside from other military personnel.

Things To Avoid

Generally it is better to avoid wearing jewelry as a nurse. The reasons are as follows:

  • A necklace could present a choking hazard if an unstable patient grabs onto it.
  • Jewelry can easily be lost or damaged in a nursing environment.
  • You will not be seen in a professional light by mist patients if you are wearing jewelry.

Norms in this regard are changing and some hospitals allow nurses to wear jewelry while they work while others do not. Again, it depends on where you end up working.

Dirty Clothes

Make sure that yours scrubs are always clean. This may often not seem important, but it is. These are the clothes that come into contact with the patient most often. If you do not keep your clothes clean you may transmit more illnesses to your patients whose immune systems may already be low. In addition, it certainly is not professional to show up for any job in clothes that are not clean. It is understood that clothes get dirty in a nursing job, but as long as you wash them when you get home you will be fine.

Hopefully this article has successfully provided you with all of the main details you need to know about what RN uniforms are appropriate and when. As mentioned previously the type of uniform that you should wear will depend to a large degree on what RN job you hold as well as what facility you work at as an RN. These are very important considerations to take into account. Usually if you are unsure about the uniform you can ask your boss for more information on what you are not allowed to wear and what is considered appropriate for your position.

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