The History of Scrubs in UK Healthcare

If 2020 taught the public anything, it is the importance of the nation’s hardworking, passionate, and dedicated healthcare professionals. Each doctor, nurse, healthcare assistant and porter is a credit to the UK and provides much-needed treatment and support during the toughest of times.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that each healthcare practitioner will have multiple challenges to overcome and rules to follow each day, such as preventing infections and wearing the right uniform. For this reason, you should take a look back at the history of scrubs in UK healthcare.

The 1800s: The first nursing uniforms

Scrubs were unheard of in the 1800s. The creation of the healthcare uniform began during the 1800s, which was thanks to Florence Nightingale. As nurses were predominantly female, they were required to wear a high-collared shirt, floor-length tabard, and a bonnet. However, there were no rules established regarding the type of styles or fabrics nurses must wear.

Surgeons also didn’t understand the importance of cleanliness during this time period, which likely led to many infections following surgery. Instead of wearing the synonymous green or blue scrubs, they wore unwashed, dark frock coats, which likely featured blood and fluids from previous operations. Unsurprisingly, the death rate following surgeries was more than 80%.

1914-1945: The wartime uniforms

Nurses played a major role in reducing the number of fatal British casualties, as they worked on the frontline to tend to soldiers’ battle injuries during WWI and WWII. What’s more, they served as a symbol of strength and unity for those risking their lives for their country, which helped to boost troops’ morale.

To ensure nurses were instantly recognizable during an emergency, they were each required to wear a white uniform in hospitals. It also featured a red cross on either their arm or chest, which served as a symbol of neutrality and protection for those in need of their care.

Frontline nurses also commonly wore a uniform similar to UK servicemen, which was coined the ‘British Battledress’. It featured the same khaki material as British troops and the iconic red cross on its sleeve.

The 1940s-1980s: Structured, fabric and durable uniforms

After the war, the nurse’s uniform changed dramatically thanks to the evolving fashion industry. Between the 1940s to the 1980s, nurses’ uniforms not only became shorter, but they also were more fashionable and structured to complement the increasingly credible healthcare profession.

Also, thanks to the increased production of washing machines and tumble dryers, industrial cleaning became an option for many healthcare organizations, such as the NHS.

Modern-day: The introduction of colour-coded and unisex scrubs

The modern-day healthcare uniform is undoubtedly the most recognizable, as it includes matching scrubs or a nursing dress, which are colour-coded to reflect a profession. For example, a registered nurse will wear a different colour to a matron or surgeon, and the dress code will be set by each facility.

Also, unlike in the previous designs, the uniforms are now unisex due to the recruitment of many male nurses. Medical scrubs must also be made from no fade fabric to help a healthcare employee appear presentable and professional. Medical practitioners in need of high-quality scrubs or dresses should, therefore, search for medical scrubs near me. Stocks are industry approved and anti-microbial for infection prevention and control.

Medical professionals have undoubtedly played an integral role in the health and safety of the community, especially during the past 100 years, from treating patients on the frontline during two wars to nursing people back to health during the COVID-19 pandemic. It, therefore, makes perfect sense that they now have a uniform that represents their professionalism, skills, and credibility.