February 20, 2006, 1:23 am

Does This Cap Make Me Look Fat?

I’m confused.

This ad to the left is okay? Three hunky men drop their scrub pants to the floor and look like they meant to do it. No outcry? (Except maybe whoa baby!) These could be nurses, you know! Or the ER doctor standing next to you. Or the OR doc in surgery.

I may never look at a ER doc the same way again (hey, I said I was confused, not stupid….).

The ad does not hint at the occupation, they just assume everyone will think they’re doctors. They could be RNs, OR techs, ER techs…..

It didn’t even make a ripple on the waters of opinion.

But this ad gets everyone all freaked and offended and gets pulled off the magazine pages as fast as you can say STAT.


I admit that I was instinctively offended at the Maidenform ad but demurely stated, “Oh my!” at the Jockey ad. Okay, okay, I said “Whoo Hoo!” but not so loud that my husband could hear me.

At least the ad depicts the Maidenform woman as a doctor and doesn’t assume she’s a nurse, whereas the Jockey ad leaves the occupation (and not much else) to the reader’s interpretation.

You know, I don’t think I would want to know who wears what underwear at work. Especially if it’s a thong…who on earth would walk around with a permanent wedgie? Then again for some of us, any underwear becomes a thong during the course of a shift…..

Sometimes you can have too much information about your co-workers (and your bloggers).


I want my “uniform” back.

I want my cap.

I know it sounds old-fashioned and stupid and archaic and pretentious and (fill in your own adjective here), but I want people to know I’m a nurse on sight.

It isn’t enough to have a name tag with an official-sized font on it. Half the time it’s backwards anyway.

Three times this week I had patients ask me, even after my initial introduction as “their” nurse, if I was an RN. After I said “yes” the next question was, “How long have you been doing this?”


Almost thirty fargin’ years, bub.

I said it nicer than that.

But I am going to make some changes. My blogging colleague over at Third Degree Nurse got me thinking more about looking professional and about scrubs and how we present ourselves to patients.

So, I’m switching to solid color scrubs. No Peanuts, Spongebob Squarepants, American Flags, strawberries – yes that is what graces my ample self. No wonder the adults have to ask if I am an RN. I look like a creature from “Adult Swim” on the Cartoon Network.

There is a local hospital that color-codes their employees and the nurses are obligated to wear white. At first I thought that to be a stupid decision by administration, but now I am not so sure. I’m not sure if I can really go back to all-white, but it really isn’t a bad idea.

And the cap. I’ve worn it before. The patient’s respectful behavior quadruples. The ribbing that I take from my colleagues is unbelievable. But every person who sees me knows I’m an RN. I may wear it again, it works with any solid color scrub. I graduated from Ohlone College so my cap has a thick green and thinner gold stripe across the top, which was the sign of a graduate waaaaay back when “What’s Happenin'” was what was happenin’.

It’s time for a professional makeover. And I don’t need Trinny and Susannah from “What Not to Wear” to help me.


By the way, I passed my ACLS/BLS recertification with flying colors and got 100% on the test.
I worried needlessly, it was a great class.

I took hold of my new cards and gleefully walked out the door of the facility, only to trip on the doorstop and fall on my butt.

So much for looking like a professional….


  • TC

    February 20, 2006 at 3:17 am

    At my first job we had to wear white and the patients really liked it and, I think, gave us a little more respect. I have a colleague to this day who still wears all white AND her cap, every shift.

  • Third Degree Nurse

    February 20, 2006 at 3:26 am

    I’m getting some white scrubs but I think I’ll wear my standard navy blue student scrubs with the patch while working as a Nurse Tech.

    Our uniform stores are carrying white because we have a new hospital that requires them. Their Dir. of Nursing was in Atlanta when the Olympics bombing happened. She said one of her nurses was interviewed on camera wearing sponge bob scrubs and she was embarrassed for the profession.

    I’m on the lookout for white slacks you can’t see through. I want to wear my Maidenform lace colored bra/panties underneath:)

    By the way, I’ll be 49 on June 9:)

  • Moof

    February 20, 2006 at 6:50 am

    Kim … I loved those pics! Dunno where you get them, but definitely keep them coming! 😀

    As far as uniforms, the nursing school I went to (no longer in existence) had a white cap that pointed up in the front middle, with a wide black stripe across the top width. It was so unwieldy that it used to catch every breeze, and some of the girls had a hell of a time keeping it on. One of the really tall girls had problems with doorways!

    I still always prefer to see the full uniform, though. It’s so hard to tell who’s who. It would help sort a lot out for the patients.

  • DawnCNM

    February 20, 2006 at 6:56 am

    Kim–love your blog. I have to admit I never wore my cap, except for capping day and graduation. If you had LONG hair which you wore up in a bun on the top of your head and tons of hair pins, the cap from my university would stay on. For those of us with shoulder length hair or shorter (and the men), the cap would fall off with a simple turn of the head unless you used 25-30 hair pins, tissue paper (!) and what all else. A way to identify myself as a RN on sight would be great, but I have to be realistic. I can either care for my patients or keep the cap on my head. I prefer to do the patient care (sigh).

  • Nurse2B

    February 20, 2006 at 7:13 am

    I’m doing clinical at a hospital where the PCT’s are required to wear blue and the nurses can wear anything. So you have all these nurses running around in strawberry shortcake scrubs and the PCT’s in solid blue. Umm, guess who looks more professional?

  • overactive-imagination

    February 20, 2006 at 7:19 am

    Congrats on recertification. The current nursing students at the college I attend are required to wear all white, it is their biggest gripe. Not because they want to wear spongebob but because they are hard to keep clean and hard to find ones that aren’t see through.

  • Rita Schwab - MSSPNexus

    February 20, 2006 at 10:33 am

    Just one comment about why the Jockey ad is different from the Maidenform ad. All the men seem to have lost their … dignity… in the Jockey ad, however, only our female medic is semi-dressed in the Maidenform ad. Seems to me that gives it a whole different feeling.


  • Flea

    February 20, 2006 at 10:37 am

    Man, if I looked like those guys I’d wear shorts more often!

    Where do you find this stuff, Kim?


  • Susan

    February 20, 2006 at 11:12 am

    I prefer each discipline to wear a solid color, nurses in navy with techs in burgundy for example. When I start a new job, I always wear my whites. I get made fun of mercilessly, but the patients sure know who I am. I like it that way. But I always identify myself as ‘your nurse’ whenever I walk into a room anyway.

    You, my dear, would probably look professional in your underwear!

  • mary

    February 20, 2006 at 3:00 pm

    Not gonna comment on the guys in briefs. I feel I must look at it several more times to properly assess the situation and give it the careful scrutiny it deserves.

    😉 That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

    Anyway, as a nurse who has not worn a uniform for more than a decade, and just came back to physically being located in a hospital setting, I am not thrilled with what I see the nurses running around in. I was in that cusp of nurses who started practice in whites and caps, and was one of the first to be happy to be free of the cap and out of whites into “scrubs”. But it has gone too far. Not only can’t I tell who the nurse is, the laissez-faire attitude has resulted in a total lack of professional presentation at all!

    We appear to talk out both sides of our mouths: on the one hand, we get defensive about “not being treated as a professional”. On the other hand, we look like high school students who overslept and didn’t have time to dress properly before running to catch the bus.

    Sloppy, mismatched scrubs with hoodies and dirty sneakers, are the common uniform at my hospital. Ladies, it is hard to be taken for “professional” when that is the uniform. I suppose with the nursing shortage, no one is going to send a nurse home for dirty shoes (the kind of thing that was common thirty years ago when I started out!), but I wish they’d at least issue all the RNs some white lab coats to wear over their messy scrubs and make it mandatory.

    Unfortunately, I am also frequently “the mom of the patient”, and believe me, I can’t tell who is who. If I’ve been an RN for thirty years and I can’t tell who is taking my kid’s BP, the general public can’t either!

    What do you all think of the RN patch? This idea has been around for a while, see: http://www.nursingadvocacy.org/action/RN_patch.html

  • Jodi

    February 20, 2006 at 5:59 pm

    I’m OK with the solid scrubs idea. I think spongebob would be embarassing as a professional (with the exception of pediatrics…makes the nurses not so scary)
    I refuse to wear white though….sorry ya’ll. It would spell trouble for me as I am a magnet for stains and I have a black cat….nah uh…wouldn’t be prudent.

  • Mama Mia

    February 21, 2006 at 9:23 am

    I have a slightly different take on this topic so, of course, I’ve blogged my thoughts (http://dustitwind.blogspot.com/2006/02/do-clothes-make-nurse.html)

    Thanks, Kim for another thought-provoking post.

  • adventures in disaster

    February 25, 2006 at 9:43 pm

    There is actually a good reason for eliminating the “cap”.No one could keep them clean and everyone touched them constantly to repin..they were filthy and when they were swabbed by infection control they were swimming in bacteria.

    I have never cared about my official identity or being recognized. I am a nurse, I know I am a nurse. I don’t need a costume. I introduce myself as a RN.

    I have wron all kinds of different uniforms and it never mattered..clothes don’t make a nurse.

  • Nurse Practitioners Save Lives

    February 26, 2006 at 12:36 pm

    I have a problem with the ad being men just as much as a female nurse.. It’s not something that professionals should want to be perceived as. I can get “as nasty as I wanna be” in my own nighties and stockings and such but I prefer to project a professional demeanor.
    As far as white uniforms.. I think it should be a personal choice.. I think it makes us look more professional and patients respond with more confidence, especially older ones. They come from that age… I notice that when I am dressed in the white lab coat as a NP student.. I seem to get more respect.. Maybe because they assume I am a doctor first.. I hope not.. I am not a doctor poser.. I always introduce myself as a nurse or nurse practitioner student…
    Great post!

  • Anonymous

    March 8, 2006 at 8:23 am

    As another healthcare professional (clinical pharmacist)and having been admitted several times (unfortunately), I would like to see some sort of uniformity in dress for nurses, too. No matter whether a caregiver says that she’s an RN or not, it gets confusing for the patient. If you’re in the hospital, you’re not likely feeling well, so not likely to remember who is what. You never know who is taking your vitals. Kudos to those nurses who would like to wear whites and caps…it really would be much easier for the patients. Just a thought…

  • Anonymous

    March 9, 2006 at 1:50 am

    Hey, a nurse after my own heart. I wear my Harper Hospital(Detroit) cap all my scheduled work days during Nurses Week and white(Horrors) stockings with a white uniform. This has been going on for a few years, now everybody waits for Nurses Week to see me show up looking like a “nurse” again. People LOVE the nursing cap, and young folks have never seen it”in real life”. Promote, promote, promote, nursing is cool, especially when you can look like one…..

  • LindaLou

    March 13, 2006 at 2:03 pm

    Please don’t make me wear a cap! I have had one sucked off my head by the turbulence in a laundry shute when I was a student. My instructor did not know what to say when I explained why I wasn’t “in uniform”. Then a year later, my cap nearly caught fire from the heat from the radiant warmer I was standing by as I cared for my premie patient. And I agree with a character in a favorite movie, Cactus Flower. White uniforms make us look like big bandaids!

About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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