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Patients' Perceptions of Today's Nursing Attire: Exploring Dual Images

Skorupski, Victoria J. MN, RN; Rea, Ruth E. PhD, RN

Journal of Nursing Administration: September 2006 - Volume 36 - Issue 9 - p 393-401

Objective: To determine what image is conveyed to patients by 3 different nurse uniforms.

Background: With the shift from the historical "single note" white nursing uniform to the current cacophony of uniforms, it is difficult to recognize the registered nurses. Uniforms are nonverbal messages sent to patients, making it critical to know what images patients associate with different uniforms.

Methods: One hundred eighty patients (convenience sample) in a Pacific Northwest hospital completed a 13-item survey asking for perceptions of 3 nursing uniforms. Participants selected 1 of 3 nurse uniform photos that best reflected each of 10 characteristics and 3 overall images.

Results: Using descriptive statistics and multivariate analyses, 2 themes for images emerged; the first is described professional and the second, approachable. When demographic variables were included, 4 generational-age strata yielded these same themes. However, different uniforms were selected for the various characteristics by age. Patients in the Seniors category consistently chose the white uniform for both themes, whereas Generations X, Y, and Baby-Boomers chose a uniform with a print as being approachable.

Conclusion: The dual images of nursing present a challenge for nursing leaders deciding whether uniforms should be standardized for nursing staff. Complicating this issue are differences in perceptions among the 4 generational ages.

Authors' affiliations: Quality Coordinator (Ms Skorupski), Washoe Health System, Reno, Nev; Associate Professor (Dr Rea), Nursing Program, University of Washington, Tacoma, Wash.

Corresponding author: Ms Skorupski, Washoe Medical Center, 77 Pringle Way, Reno, NV 89502 (

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.