Medical Scrubs Throughout History

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Medical scrubs today not only help to distinguish medical staff from patients or other staff departments, but they also help to prevent the spread of infections. However, scrubs weren’t always as colorful and comfortable as they are now. In fact, medical professionals did not start wearing scrubs until the 20th century.

Instead of scrub tops and pants, nurses wore starched dresses with white aprons and caps. Doctors wore regular clothing and sometimes donned a butcher’s apron while performing surgery. The push for better sterilization and more comfort transformed the standard uniform that medical professionals now wear.

Medical Scrubs Timeline

Before the 19th century – Most medical caretakers prior to the 1800s were nuns. These nuns would typically wear habits with aprons as they cared for patients. Private caretakers during this time sometimes wore a servant’s uniform with a white cap and white apron.

1860s - One of Florence Nightingale’s students designed the original nurse’s uniform, drawing inspiration from a nun’s habit. These outfits were typically long dresses with white aprons and white caps. Different colored ribbons in the cap’s band signified seniority. New nurses used light-colored ribbons, while senior nurses used black ribbons.

1918 – During the Spanish flu pandemic, medical professionals became more aware of how infections spread. Doctors began wearing cotton gauze masks during surgeries to protect themselves against patient diseases and nursing uniforms evolved. Skirt lengths shortened to improve mobility, shirtsleeves became simpler, and many nurses stopped using aprons because of their bulkiness. Military nurses started using tippets, a cape-like garment with badges that indicated the individual’s rank.

1940s – During this time, medical facilities used more antiseptic techniques to prevent the spread of pathogens and infections. These techniques included using white outfits and antiseptic drapes in the operating room to stress cleanliness.

1950s and 1960s – Because the bright lights in the operating room and stark white operating gowns often caused eyestrain in surgeons and staff, they began using green-colored apparel in the 1950s to reduce eye fatigue while providing a high-contrast environment. It was also around this time that nurses’ hats stopped denoting seniority. Outfits were also simpler to wash and less form fitting.

1970s – In this decade, nurses stopped wearing traditional caps and male nurses started wearing hospital scrubs, which became a new fashion trend in the medical community. This set the foundation for modern medical attire, which some called “surgical greens.” The outfits became widely known as scrubs, as surgeons changed into the clothes before scrubbing in for a surgery.

Modern day – Today, almost all medical professionals wear some type of scrubs. Most scrubs include short-sleeved shirts and drawstring scrub pants. Scrubs can also include warm-up jackets with long sleeves. Surgical scrubs are typically a shade of blue or green, while staff outside the operating room wears nonsurgical scrubs. Different colors can be worn to distinguish between departments or staff positions, depending on the facility. Some facilities allow any number color of scrubs to be worn, include fun patterns.

The modern fits and materials in today’s scrubs allow for greater mobility and comfort. They are also simpler to clean. Sanibel Scrubs specializes in medical scrubs, lab coats, and other medical wardrobe for both men and women. As a private label brand, we are able to offer you the best quality and best prices. We understand what you expect from your uniforms and it's our goal to provide it. View our scrubs today and Escape the Ordinary.

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Staff 11/2/2016

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