A poll posted on the online Nursing Times website posed an interesting question: should directors of nursing wear scrubs, like the nurses they supervise, or should they wear business attire that suits the office environment they work in?
The Goose/Gander Argument
Many of the poll respondents felt that directors of nursing should wear scubs. The reasons cited were varied, but many posters felt that wearing a uniform depicts a willingness to “get in the trenches” with the staff they supervise. There was a sense that business attire sets nursing directors apart from those they supervise, erecting an invisible barrier. Some posters stated that nursing directors would be unwilling to help their staff out on the floor if they were dressed in business attire. Another stated that nursing directors should wear a uniform and “practice what they preach,” providing a good example to the nurses they supervise by being visible and modeling the professionalism they expect.
An overall theme in the responses is that wearing business attire contributes to an “us and them” mentality. But is attire really the crucial variable? Many posters simply expressed the desire to see more of their nursing directors on the floor. Some stated that they felt nursing directors would be more in touch with issues affecting nurses working on the floor if they spent more time there. A few posters claimed that they would not to be able to recognize their nursing directors if they were to see them face-to-face, reinforcing the idea of a disconnect between nursing directors and the nurses who work under them.
The Argument for Business Attire
Directors of nursing spend much of their time attending meetings and generally work in an office environment, so choosing to wear business attire makes sense. One might argue that such attire projects a certain level of professionalism. As nursing has had to struggle over the years to be viewed as an autonomous profession, appearing and acting in a professional manner can only advance the cause of nursing as a profession.
The wearing of scrubs or other uniforms might actually be detrimental in certain circumstances if this is truly the case. Nursing directors who wear a uniform might be taken less seriously in matters of business and finances, as there are some who continue to think of nurses as glorified bedpan wranglers.
Wearing business attire might also serve nursing directors well in terms of dealing with conflict. Projecting an aura of professionalism, power and confidence can be useful when dealing with disgruntled family members, patients, physicians or others. Directors of nursing may find that their authority is compromised if they wear scrubs.
The Bottom Line
It probably doesn’t matter a great deal what type of clothing nursing managers choose to wear. What really matters to nurses is that their director is approachable, involved and is aware of issues occurring on the wards. Attempts to remedy problems as they arise are always viewed in a positive light. The nursing supervisors most respected by their subordinates are those that have their finger on the pulse of nursing and know the struggles (and recognize the accomplishments) of the staff they supervise. The bottom line? Like everyone else, nurses want to be heard, understood and appreciated for their hard work and dedication. If this is being done consistently, that is far more important than what is being worn by the person who is accomplishing these goals.