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What Do Nurses Wear To Work?

Nurses wear clothing designed to protect themselves and their patients. The exact type of clothing that a nurse wears will depend on the facility in which they work, as well as their role within that facility, but it typically includes the following:

Medical Scrubs

Most types of nurses wear scrubs in the workplace.

Scrubs are simple uniforms that are easy to clean and disinfect. They often have solid colors that help patients to identify the nurses (and nurses to identify stains), but there are more colorful options available. These non-traditional designer scrubs tend to be worn in low-risk settings or wherever the dress code allows.

Most scrubs are made from a blend of polyester and cotton. It creates a uniform that won't fade or harbor bacteria and is very easy to clean. Scrubs can also be made from rayon and spandex blends as well as 100% cotton.

Do Nurses Wear Bras Under Scrubs?

Nurses wear underwear beneath their scrubs, including bras. Depending on the weather, they may also wear thermal underwear.

Medical scrubs are often loose-fitting. Not only does this make them more comfortable and allow the wearer to move freely, but it also leaves room for underwear, undershirts, and thermal attire.

What Color Does a Registered Nurse Wear?

The traditional white uniform is rarely seen in modern hospitals as white uniforms are difficult to clean. These days, most nurses wear light blue. It is easier to clean, helps to distinguish them from doctors and orderlies, and also invokes feelings of trust and warmth.

Green scrubs are also worn for much the same reason, as green is often associated with peace, calm, and healing.

Surgical Gowns

Nurses wear gowns during operations and in surgical units. These gowns are also worn by doctors and surgeons and provide extra protection against contaminants.

There are several types of gowns available, including:

  • Surgical Gowns: Also known as surgical isolation gowns, they offer maximum protection against splashes, especially around the wrist.
  • Coveralls : Often worn when dealing with potentially infectious blood and other contaminants, these gowns repel water and fluids.
  • Non-surgical Gowns: Worn when the risk of contamination is moderate.

Nursing Shoes

Nursing shoes should be comfortable and relatively silent while also being impermeable to liquids. Clogs and athletic shoes are good options here, but there are many different nursing shoes on the market.

The benefit of wearing clogs is that they protect against slips on slick floors while being very comfortable and supportive. Clogs are also easy to clean and will protect the feet.

Athletic shoes are more lightweight and flexible and this allows for improved mobility.

Face Masks

Face masks are pretty ubiquitous these days, but they have always been essential in hospitals and other environments with potential airborne pathogens.

Nurses wear face masks to protect themselves against coughing and sneezing patients, as well as against other bodily fluids.

The type of face mask that a nurse wears will depend on the facility and the situation. In the past, they may have been limited to surgeries and to encounters with highly infectious people. Since 2020, they have become commonplace throughout hospitals, nursing homes, and home care settings.

Most nurses wear face masks of a single color, such as blue or green. This allows them to identify any stains that attach to the mask.

Medical Gloves

Nurses wear medical gloves in the operating room or when coming into contact with bodily fluids and hazardous chemicals. The gloves prevent cross-contamination and protect both the nurse and the patient.

As with face masks, medical gloves have become more common in the last couple of years due to the spread of COVID-19.


Watches have always played an important role in healthcare and are as much a part of a nurse's uniform as comfortable shoes. The nurse needs to keep a close eye on the time to properly manage schedules, check on patient health, administer medications, and more.

Recently, there has been a shift toward smartwatches like the Apple Watch and the Samsung Watch.

Not only do these devices accurately tell the time, but they can be used to receive notifications, make calls, check text messages/emails, set alarms, and monitor the nurse's activity levels.

Smartwatches could play a significant role in keeping nurses active and healthy, potentially alerting them if they are running the risk of nurse burnout (based on activity time and sleep schedules) and reminding them of important social events, medications, meals, and more.

Wearing a smartwatch means the nurse can also leave their phone in their locker and still have access to calls, texts, and notifications.

What is the Dress Code for Nurses?

Dress codes vary by organization but they may define everything from nursing uniforms to piercings and tattoos.

A typical dress code may include:

  • Nurses should wear scrubs of a specific color
  • A lab coat should be worn in certain circumstances
  • Shoes should not produce excessive noise and must be impermeable to liquids

The Importance of Proper Clothing and Dress Codes for Nurses

As the name suggests, nurse uniforms and other medical clothing exist to create a sense of uniformity. The patients and medical staff can tell who works where based on whether they're wearing scrubs, lab coats, or something else. More importantly, they protect healthcare providers and patients from cross-contamination, thus limiting the spread of infection.

Hospitals and other healthcare settings are often riddled with bugs. After all, it's essentially a meeting place for contagion, and the only way to reduce the spread is to clean, disinfectant, and stop cross contamination where possible.

A nurse uniform should also be comfortable, easy to store, and accessible, ensuring the nurse doesn't overheat and has plenty of space for essential medical tools.

What Should a Nurse Wear on the First Day?

For your first day at work, grab a pair of medical scrubs and pay close attention to the dress code policy. You may need to cover up visible tattoos and remove piercings, but it all comes down to your place of work.

Most hospitals and other healthcare facilities are fairly relaxed when it comes to tattoos and piercings these days, although that's definitely not the case for all of them.

find nursing schools near you

find nursing schools near you