How medical scrubs have changed the healthcare industry?

  • Apr 11, 2023

Medical Attire: Introduction

In ancient times, the medical industry wasn’t as prominent as today. Not much knowledge about medicine was there among the people and many of the facts about healthcare remained unknown. While medical attires were not a ‘requirement’ until the 20th century, most medical practices were carried out by nuns and monks, so the attires covered the entire body. These attires were designed for modesty but coincidentally helped with hygienic practices. Before the 1940s, surgeons were said to wear butcher’s aprons and street clothes. 


It all began with Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale is one of the prominent people in medical history. It was during her time that nursing was first time recognized as a profession. During the Crimean War, she requested the nurses to stop wearing crinolines, polonaises, and hair pads as she believed that it made them more difficult to move around freely while taking care of the patients. She also introduced aprons and caps to keep hair away from the nurse’s faces. In 1860, a training school was opened under her name and it was here that a new uniform for nursing has been created. It was an ankle-length pinafore and a hat. This is a clear further advancement of uniforms in medical history.


Medical Attire during the era of Plague and Flu

Plague doctors wore spectacles, and a mask with a nose half a foot long, shaped like a beak, filled with perfumes with two holes, one on each side near the nostrils, along with gloves, boots, a wide-brimmed hat, and an outer over-clothing garment. The physicians believed that the plague spread through poisoned air that could create an imbalance in a person’s bodily fluids. Sweet and pungent perfumes were believed to be able to fumigate plague-stricken air and protect the smeller. The canes were also used to keep people away and to remove clothing from plague victims without having to touch them. The Spanish Flu Epidemic in 1918 was a deadly pandemic. Doctors wore caps, face masks, and rubber gloves. The purpose of this was to protect from illness. During this period, the medical staff and the general public began to realize how easily illnesses spread. 


Further Advancements

By the 1940s, scientific breakthroughs had led to a better understanding of germs, how diseases are communicated, and the importance of sanitation. To indicate cleanliness, everyone in the operating room began to dress in white, creating the iconic image of a nurse or doctor in a white uniform. But white uniforms began to show spills and stains clearly. Thus, white nurse uniforms gradually began to disappear and more colorful uniforms became more accepted and popular. For instance, the wearing of colorful scrubs is still in use today all over the world.


Evolution of Scrubs

By the 1970s, the uniform which was originally known as surgical greens because of its color came to be called scrubs because it was worn in a “scrubbed” environment. During the 1960s, scrubs were standardized and hospitals required ‘surgical greens’ to be worn. Green scrubs are still worn today but are mostly reserved for surgeons. Green was chosen as the medical uniform color as it was believed to reduce fatigue and drowsy eyes, and also make bloodstains look less severe. By the 1970s, scrubs were worn in almost all hospitals. The uniform was designed, was a V-necked shirt and drawstring trousers. These scrubs were designed for comfortable long shifts, and protective enough to keep the staff safe. By today’s standards, the scrubs were designed to withstand high-temperature washes for sterilization purposes. Medical scrubs today are essential in all health and care settings. Each role today is expected to wear a different style of scrubs, for instance, students and junior nurses will wear different styles of tunics from their seniors. 

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