January 24, 2013 at 09:42 AM EST
Nurses bloody mad about dress-code change
Does this color make me look … bloody? Nurses at Lenox Hill Hospital, Forest Hills Hospital, Staten Island University Hospital and the rest of the North Shore LIJ Health System are griping about a dress code overhaul that will force them to start wearing white scrubs next month. "When you buy white polyester, it turns yellow," said Patricia Kane, a nurse at Staten Island University Hospital and a member of the New York State Nurses Association. "There's also the see-through factor, which is a real issue. We bend and we stretch and we push and we pull—it's not good when you have to wear white and you're wondering what the guy in the next bed is thinking." The new dress code would affect most of the 10,000 nurses who work in the 15-hospital North Shore LIJ system. Only nurses who work in endoscopy units, operating rooms and labor and delivery—who spend most of their days in gowns—will be exempt from the new dress code, which will take effect in February, a North Shore LIJ spokesman said. At the Lenox Hill emergency room last week, nurses joked that they planned to protest the policy by wearing brightly colored or leopard-printed lingerie underneath their sterile whites. They also complained that getting dirty with blood and other body fluids happens regularly. Those stains will stand out on white tops far more than on the dark purple and maroon scrubs many nurses favor today. The dress-code change was made to improve customer service, hospital officials said. Surveys showed patients and their families were often confused by the many employees that rush around emergency rooms and hospital hallways: respiratory therapists, physician's assistants, nurse managers, assistant nurses, patient care associates and others. "Unless you work in a hospital, most people cannot distinguish these people from one another," the hospital spokesman said. The bright white top will "make it easier for patients to identify who the nurse is." Nurses will not be required to wear white pants, he said. Nurses reached through their union bristled at the very concept of a mandate on how to dress. "It's demeaning to professionals to be told what to wear," Ms. Kane said. "I wore white for a lot of years as a nurse and it was always a problem." The white shirt can be purchased in bulk through the hospitals for as low as $8. At a uniform store, they retail for $30 to $60.
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