What Do Nurses Wear At Work? | Clothing and Accessories

Nurses wear various medical clothing to protect themselves, their patients, and coworkers from germs and cross-infection or contamination.

However, the clothing nurses wear depends on the healthcare facility, the employer’s dress code, and their work department.

For example, registered nurses in the emergency room wear masks and gloves to protect their faces and skin.

Additionally, they wear medical scrubs, work-friendly clogs, or suitable athletic footwear to prevent bodily fluids from spreading from patient to nurse and vice versa.

The specific types of scrubs, clogs/work footwear nurses wear vary depending on their profession/specialty.

However, some nursing essentials and medical equipment are every day in most departments.

This article explores the clothing nurses wear and why specific clothing is essential for the patient and employee healthcare.

Medical Scrub Uniforms

Medical scrubs are ordinary clothing worn by nurses when operating in the workplace.

Scrubs help identify nurses in a hospital/healthcare facility, providing a sterilized, easy-to-clean medical outfit.

It helps minimize opportunities for contaminants to hide on medical clothing undetected.

It also allows nurses to clean and disinfect clothing quickly when necessary.

Scrubs often feature solid colors that make identifying contaminants easier and more apparent.

However, some nurses wear fashionable, designer scrubs in low-risk settings that don’t require solid color clothing.

Scrub uniforms comprise a scrub shirt and pants that adequately cover and protect the nurse’s skin.

Nurses also wear disposable isolation/surgical gowns to protect clothing in surgical units or during certain operations.

It provides an additional layer of protection from contamination and germs.

When picking scrub uniforms, nurses must select an appropriate fit to accommodate their bodies and ensure proper clothing guidelines.

Besides that, scrubs with functional pocket space and compartments make work easier.

Pockets/compartments hold important medical essentials.

It includes bandages, scissors/trauma shears, writing supplies, medical bandages, tape, alcohol swabs, and IV flushes, among other things.

Nursing Footwear

Clogs, athletic shoes, and nurse-friendly footwear ensure adequate protection from germs, spells, and other hazards.

For example, clogs provide supportive midsoles and slip-resistant outsoles and help nurses identify stains/liquids that have gotten onto their footwear.

They also protect nurses from slips and falls and make it easy to identify potential contaminants.

It is essential for maintaining personal health and a clean workplace.

With that said, nurses wear work-focused shoes and athletic footwear when possible.

Athletic footwear is lightweight, flexible, and offers excellent mobility.

However, its design must be acceptable for the workplace due to hazards in specific settings.

Most nurses in non-emergency settings wear athletic, comfortable sneakers, but it’s always necessary to check clothing guidelines.

Finally, high-quality footwear significantly reduces knee, back, and joint pain.

As a result, nurses perform better at work and reduce the chances of sustaining an injury.

Many nurses won’t work without high-quality footwear because working on challenging and flat surfaces becomes very uncomfortable over time.

The proper footwear makes work shifts easier, while the wrong footwear leads to physical discomfort and health risks.

Face Mask

Face masks, glasses/goggles, and face shields protect nurses’ mouths, noses, and eyes from potential airborne contaminants. 

They also ensure nurses do not contaminate the patients they are assisting or operating with.

For instance, a face mask prevents a nurse’s body fluid from contacting a patient in the emergency room.

It’s imperative that the nurse sneezes or accidentally releases fluids from their mouth, eyes, and nose.

Conversely, face masks provide the same protection to nurses when patient fluids become airborne.

Face masks are often white or blue to identify potential stains or contaminants that have landed on them.

As a result, it’s easier to ensure a sanitary work environment and replace contaminated face masks when necessary.

Finally, the masks nurses wear depend on their setting and situation.

However, the most common masks include surgical face masks and respiratory (N95) masks.

In most cases, nurses wear face masks in sensitive settings.

It includes emergency departments, ICUs, trauma units, operating rooms, and other critical care settings.

Medical/Surgical Gloves

Medical/surgical gloves are essential when working in a healthcare setting.

They protect nurses when dealing with hazardous chemicals and patients’ bodily fluids.

It includes fluids from blood, saliva, urine, feces, and countless germs.

As a result, it stops cross-contamination and prevents germs from contacting themselves, their patients, or coworkers.

Various situations require nurses to wear medical gloves to ensure a sanitary and healthy healthcare facility.

For example, when working in an operating room, changing a patient’s clothing, working around a virus, handling harmful chemicals, or cleaning/sterilizing medical equipment.

Medical Friendly Watch

Medical-friendly watches play a significant role in a nurse’s daily life.

Fundamentally they allow nurses to track time, manage schedules, perform assessments, document charts, and monitor patient health.

Having a decent watch when dealing with deadlines, examining vitals, or performing tasks that require measuring precise time is imperative.

Nowadays, smartwatches such as The Apple Watch provide nurses with extra functionality.

They can manage multiple alarms, receive notification/phone calls and monitor their activity level.

It’s great for active and connected nurses because it allows them to do more with less effort.

Finally, smartwatches allow nurses to receive important messages while leaving phones in their lockers.

Four Important Medical Clothing Factors

Nurses must consider four primary factors when choosing appropriate work clothing and accessories.

It includes scrub uniforms protection, comfort, design, and utility.

Each factor provides better versatility and allows nurses to perform their duties effectively and efficiently.

Important Questions To Ask

  • Do these scrubs provide adequate protection
  • Is the clothing comfortable
  • Does it accommodate my work essentials
  • Is the design work appropriate


Protective clothing is the most crucial factor when it comes to medical clothing.

Nurses work around bodily fluids and hazardous chemicals that can harm or lead to viruses.

Therefore, protective clothing is necessary, especially in high-risk settings where hazards and germs/viruses are commonplace.

When picking medical clothing, it must allow nurses to identify contaminants in their outfits quickly.

It should also provide enough protection to prevent contaminants’ from contacting their skin.

Finally, medical clothing must be easy to clean so healthcare workers can clean it quickly and with little effort.

Ensuring a healthy and sanitary work environment for nurses, coworkers, and patients is essential.


Clothing comfort is another crucial factor because nurses work very long hours.

It’s common for nurses to work 12 shifts and spend a large portion of their day standing/walking around.

As a result, clothing and footwear must be supportive and comfortable for an extended time.

Also, clothing should provide an appropriate fit so it doesn’t become a hazard because it is too tight, loose, or uncomfortable.

Consequently, the wrong footwear or scrubs make work miserable and lead to significant discomfort and itching.

Storage and Accessibility

Scrub clothing with adequate pocket space makes carrying critical medical essentials and tools more accessible.

It also saves nurses from making multiple trips while keeping their hands free to perform other essential tasks.

Accordingly, it’s suitable for small items, including a pulse oximeter, scissors, IV lines, bandages, and cleaning supplies.


Scrub clothing must provide an appropriate design that accommodates work clothing guidelines.

Fortunately, most manufacturers know this and provide adequate protection and cover.

That said, factors such as length and fit are still essential to consider and should accommodate your body and work environment.

Ensure your tattoos/clothing fall within company guidelines for nurses with tattoos and piercings.

Although many facilities have relaxed policies on tattoos, they must feature an appropriate design that doesn’t need covering.

Nonetheless, it’s essential to pick clothing that offers an appropriate length If the healthcare facility requires covering tattoos.