11/12/07 — Wayne Memorial ads new rules for uniforms

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Wayne Memorial ads new rules for uniforms

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 12, 2007 1:45 PM

Nurses at Wayne Memorial Hospital are adopting a more professional image.

The more uniform approach among the nursing staff went into effect Nov. 1, said Shirley Harkey, director of nurses.

From nurses and nursing assistants to unit secretaries on each floor, the clothing changes will be noticeable, Ms. Harkey said.

"If you are a nurse that works in ICU, ER, the floors, medical surgical units, oncology, radiology, you'll wear all white for an RN or LPN, or (you) can wear a navy blue bottom -- trousers or skirt -- and a white top," she explained.

Nursing assistants will wear all hunter green. Those in pediatrics, meanwhile, can wear royal blue bottoms and the same style top, while those in the post partum unit and labor and delivery will don blue pants and a white top that has pink and baby blue footprints.

"It's just another piece to our puzzle to keep our children safe," Ms. Harkey said, explaining the importance of the staff being set apart from unauthorized personnel.

The evolution of nursing uniforms has drastically changed since the days of crisp white tops and skirts or pants and starched caps, Ms. Harkey said.

As nursing care became more complex, the caps got in the way and became obsolete. By the time the nursing shortage came into prominence in the 1980s and 1990s, she said, "we sort of relaxed our thoughts of what nurses should wear."

It's time, though, to return to what works best, Ms. Harkey said.

"Public image about a nurse, usually, is a white uniform," she said. "We have just sort of found over time, it's very difficult when everybody wears a different color or something different. ... Today it's really hard to figure out who the nurse is."

It had gotten confusing, attests Joanie Martin, a second-floor nurse.

"I have noticed that (patients) will go to the housekeeper and say they need something for pain, and they'll have to explain they're in their to clean the room," she said.

Much thought went into making the change, Ms. Harkey said.

"We did some research about how proper uniforms can project the right image," she said. "A uniform makes it much easier to identify who to go to for help, to assist with a clean, consistent image. That helps with impacting the patient and the medical staff's first impressions and can help build relationships of trust and respect."

Many hospitals across the state have also adopted the more professional approach to dress, Ms. Harkey said.

So when it became apparent that change was imminent, she began meeting in August with a group comprised of nurses, nursing assistants and secretaries to discuss the right approach for Wayne Memorial. The move affects about 600 employees, she noted, and does not include such areas as physical therapy or the lab.

Ms. Martin, who has been at the hospital for five years, was part of the committee.

"I was pushing for this myself," she said. "I guess I'm old-fashioned, but I'm thinking it will be better."

Not only does it create a more professional impression, she said, but it also commands a level of respect.

"I think the blue and white solid colors are very professional," she said. "It just looks neater in appearance and is easier for the patient to recognize us."

Besides, she added, "You go to work to do your job, not look cute."