My school was called a Family School, PK – 8th grade with a census of 900 students and me, the solo school nurse. When asked to describe my day, I usually said it was a “chaotic ballet” with a mind-numbing number of students, staff, and parents spinning in and out of the health office. It was fast-paced with moments of quiet before the storm that was a three-hour lunch period to accommodate all of the students. If I made it through to 1:30 (when the final lunch ended) without calling 911, that was a good day.
Our school is a public school, but one of the first in the city to adopt wearing uniforms. At the time, there was only one other school that chose this policy. To support the students, the staff decided to also wear uniform colors, blue and white. That made it quite easy for me, as a school nurse, I wore blue scrubs and a white lab coat. What I did not take into consideration was who else at school wore blue scrubs and the confusion that it could potentially cause.
My office was often very hot and the air conditioner unit was on life support. The extra layer of my white lab coat made it too uncomfortable to keep on during the hottest days in my office. So, most days I wore my blue scrubs and hung up my lab coat. What I did not anticipate was that wearing scrubs could be confusing to students and maybe even to staff or visitors.
One very hot day I was walking through the lunchroom checking on some students when one student came up to me with a very quizzical expression. He said, “Mrs. Cogan, are you the lunch lady and the school nurse?” I looked around and for the first time, I noticed that all of the lunch aides were also wearing blue scrubs. I realized that my decision to wear scrubs could create role confusion. That was the last day that I wore scrubs to school.
The very next day, I wore business casual clothes, no more scrubs for me. What was so interesting is that I began to notice that I was treated with more respect when I was out of scrubs. I began to see that a more professional dress presence changed the way I was perceived. I know many school nurses that do wear scrubs and have strong feelings about the necessity to do so and I respect their decision. This was my experience and I believe there is room for all of our personal choices and beliefs on the matter of professional dress as a school nurse. Food for thought and a space for discussion is the purpose of this post. Please feel to comment and share!
Special thank you to Dr. Martha Dewey Bergren for reminding me of this story.