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Can Nurses Wear Dresses?

It is safe to say that the world has seen a shift in office wear, especially after the recent pandemic. With more instances of work-from-home situations, loungewear has almost created a revolution of its own. With the “comfort-over-style” mantra doing the rounds for office wear, what about the nurses on duty?

Therefore, the question is, “Can nurses wear dresses?” What are the restrictions on the dressing code for nurses on duty? Is there any flexibility in dressing styles for nurses? Let’s find all about it and more.

Nurses and outfits

A nurse is an integral part of the healthcare sector. They take on the responsibility of giving the utmost care for patients, helping them recover and get back to normal health post-treatment.

Just like in any other workplace environment, dress code is essential in a healthcare system too.

Hence, nurses have a uniform while on duty. Although, the uniform’s color, style, and design vary from healthcare institutes/hospitals/country/region.

The most common outfit that we get to see is that of a scrub suit. In some places, nurses do put on the traditional nurse uniform dress too.

The transition of nurse uniforms over the years

The first evidence of a nurse wearing a uniform dates back to the Crimean war, fought from 1853 all through 1856.

Florence Nightingale played a pivotal role in treating wounded soldiers during the war, thus becoming the founder of modern nursing.

During this time, she started a nurse training school for young women in attending soldiers and civilians in need of care. One of her students designed an actual uniform for nurses to enable distinguishing trained nurses from the rest.

The uniform comprised a floor-length dress topped with an apron and a frilly cap (head accessory). Thus, it became the first recognized uniform for nurses in history.

Over time, there have been many transitions to nurse uniforms since the first uniform. The length of the dresses also went shorter for convenience, to the current scrubs suits. Today’s nurse uniforms have all aspects in mind – mobility, comfort, the rank to which a nurse belongs, protection, and functionality.

Can nurses wear dresses?

The answer to this question is technically a yes and a no.

If the nurse uniform comprises a dress, then yes, a nurse can wear dresses to work.

However, if the dress in question is casual, other than a predefined uniform, a nurse cannot wear dresses/skirts at work.

While for the longest time, nurses have been wearing long dresses as part of the professional uniform. But, for the convenience of nurses, they transitioned it into shorter-length dresses. However, there was a problem with short-length dresses though. With the constant need to bend, take care, move around, lift and assist, the dress code became an inconvenience at some point.

That is why the nurses’ uniform saw another upgrade and transition, in the form of a scrub. Today, most healthcare institutions and hospitals now implement scrubs for all working professionals in different color codes.

Although, ever since the pandemic hit the world, all healthcare workers and nurses welcomed a new working outfit/uniform. Yes, we are talking about the PPE suits that were necessary for all health workers. This new outfit defied all factors of comfort, functionality, and so on. It only catered to the sole purpose of safety of the health care providers.

Nurse dress code – far beyond fashion

Many fashion enthusiasts may counter that there should be freedom over what a person should wear/ choose to wear. While there is no denying it, the main of a nurse is utmost care to a patient rather than looking the best.

In addition, a dress code for nurses goes far beyond keeping up with a fashion trend or looking presentable.

The reasons for having a dress code/uniform for nurses include –

Profession identification, minimizing confusion

A hospital or a healthcare institution can be crowded and packed with professionals as well as patients.

Now, if the nurses and other health care workers/physicians were in casual outfits, there would be more confusion than ever.

Having a distinct uniform helps for better differentiation and recognition of the healthcare one requires.

Safety – Curb the risk of infection to themselves and the next patient. 

In safety terms, the contagious COVID-19 is a classic example. It also is the same for any hazardous/infectious diseases.

Putting on suitable protective wear by the nurses and health care workers ensures their safety and the other patients.


Putting on a clean, uniform outfit with the rest of the health workers creates a professional aura that makes lasting first impressions.

It, in turn, helps boost the patients that come in with hopelessness and gloom to get treatments. A professional setting sets the trust and brings a positive vibe.

Dignity and dressing etiquette

It is apparent that if given an option, anyone would opt for a breezy summer dress over scrubs during summer. Likewise, the preference for fleece pajamas over scrubs would be higher.

While that is there, it is essential to remember that people of all gender and varying age groups come to the hospital.

Casual clothing like dresses and shorts can sometimes get one in an awkward situation. Hence, having a dress code for nurses maintains the dignity and dressing etiquette in a workplace.

What are the flexibilities for nurses to put on dresses and casual outfits when on duty?

This question is quite tricky to answer. That is because – all countries/regions have different governing rules for dress codes for nurses. In addition, various hospitals/ health care institutions / old age care homes have other protocols overdressing etiquettes.

However, some standard exceptions that we get to see are –

  • Most hospitals allow casual outfits/ creative clothing using hospital uniform scrubs on Halloween. A nurse can put on dresses, given that it follows the dress etiquette provided by the employer.
  • Some old-age care homes allow once a month/ once a week permission to put on casual clothing.
  • If a nurse/health worker’s birthday falls on a working day, they are allowed casual outfits and dresses in some hospitals.
  • Annual functions of the hospital/seasonal celebrations are occasions where a nurse is exempt from uniform. Hence, a nurse/health worker can put on a stunning dress for such events.

About Rachel

Hi my name is Rachel; a registered nurse. I graduated from one of the best nursing programmes and have been working in the medical field for 10 years. As a licensed practical nurse, I understand the plight that comes with the job. While I enjoy taking care of patients, I understand the long working hours that nurses have to deal with. We spend majority of the shifts walking around the medical centre making sure all patients are taken care of and this requires a lot of work and energy on the feet. https://bestnursingshoes.net has been created to help nurses from different parts of the world find the perfect shoes to reduce the strain on your feet and posture and make the job much easier.

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