ST. GEORGE – Dixie Regional Medical Center celebrates 100 years of service this year, and notable developments are in store for Intermountain Healthcare’s Southwest Region, not the least of which will be the expansion of its neuroscience program as the center evolves from a Level-3 trauma center to Level-2. But patients will notice visible changes as well – a new standardized scrubs policy being one of them. While scrubs may not be as remarkable as medical service enhancements, the policy is one the center has implemented for better patient care. Scrubs, it seems, can serve to reduce patient anxiety and offer a sense of comfort.
Until now, Dixie Regional’s caregivers were free to wear any color, pattern or fabric they liked – from pastels to primaries, in all sorts of patterns and textures; there was no standardization. But that virtual rainbow is now gone as uniformity within departments and disciplines is policy.
It is important for patients to be able to quickly identify who their caregivers are, by means other than just name badges, Intermountain decided, to not only help the patients and their family and friends recognize which nurse has which specialty but also other caregivers serving at its hospitals.
A brief history
Scrubs – originating as clothing articles making up a scrub suit – have represented the dress code for the medical field for as long as most can remember. They were first worn by doctors but have long come to be standard issue for most caregivers in the medical field. Whether you have visited a hospital yourself or have seen a medical drama on TV, you instantly recognize a hospital worker – or caregiver – because of their scrubs. History and research shows the practice of medicine at least as far back as the prehistoric era. And just as the practice of medicine itself is ever changing, so the trends in uniforms doctors and nurses wear also evolve.
According to Scrubs Magazine, many doctors and surgeons performed procedures in their street clothes in the 19th Century. Aprons were used to protect clothing, but it wasn’t until the 1940s that surgical uniforms were conceived. The first medical scrubs used were a standard white color. White scrubs, though, proved a vulnerable palette for other “transfers” doctors and nurses came in contact with throughout the day, bodily fluids being the obvious. And, seeing blood stains on white scrubs is unpleasant for anyone to see.
“By the 1970s, scrubs had largely become what they are today: a short sleeve shirt and drawstring pants,” Scrubs Magazine author Penny Hammond wrote, “in most cases, made of green cotton.”
Green scrubs worked because not only are they more attractive to the eye but they also hide blood stains. If you follow a popular medical drama or have visited a hospital recently you will notice that scrubs are not just worn by doctors, but nurses as well. And what once was a sea of “surgical green” moving about medical facilities is often now a full prism concourse with no attached meaning.
Scrubbing the old, donning the new
“Hello Kitty” and “Winnie The Pooh” patterned scrubs may work in a pediatrician’s office, but they do not help hospital patients identify what level and department the doctors and nurses belong to. Multiple colors are just that if they are not coded to mean something. Adopting standardized color coordinating scrubs gives each department its own identity and, according to the studies it conducted, better satisfies the needs of patients at Dixie Regional Medical Center.
There are 15 different groups of caregiving teams at Dixie Regional. Each department will now have color coordinating scrubs. For example, registered nurses will wear navy blue, respiratory staff will wear dark green, certified nursing assistants will wear light grey and licensed practical nurses will wear a white scrub top and navy blue bottoms. There is an exception though: On holidays, the staff will be allowed to wear holiday-designed scrub tops.
Chief Nurse Gay Cunningham said that there have been studies done to identify which scrub designs make the patients feel more comfortable and decrease their anxiety. The color of the scrubs worn by the nurses was shown to accomplish this, in that a patient could quickly identify his or her caregivers by the color of their scrubs. And the feedback from the staff and caregivers of Intermountain supported the findings, which stemmed from an idea for a more coordinated look, given by a northern region hospital.
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Chief Nurse Gay Cunningham talks about the new Scrubs dress code, Dixie Regional Medical Center, St. George, Utah, March 6, 2013 | Videocast by Sarafina Amodt, St. George News
At Dixie Regional Medical, each nurse will be provided with three new sets of scrubs and the caregivers will be able to purchase more scrubs through any vendor of their choice as long as the required colors for their position are observed.
St. George News Editor-in-Chief Joyce Kuzmanic contributed to this report.
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