“We Wish Nurses Still Wore Caps!”

I hear it all the time. Patients tell me that they wish nurses still wore caps. They don’t like not being able to easily identify just who is a nurse. I tell them that nurses don’t wear caps because they aren’t practical. They slip and slide and fall off. I also tell them that when men entered the profession there was no cap appropriate for the male nurse. Since male nurses didn’t have to wear caps, female nurses decided that they didn’t want to wear caps either. It has been years and years since I wore a cap. There was a time that I wore it very proudly.

Earning those stripes

I went to a three year hospital-based nursing school. Right off we got a cap to wear with our student nurse’s uniform. It was such an exciting moment to put that cap on for the first time. There was even a capping ceremony to mark the event. I used white bobby pins to secure it in place. At night, I’d stuff it with tissue so it would keep its shape. My cap was organdy, a poof in the front that tapered off in the back. Since we were brand new student nurses, we wore a blue stripe on a cap to distinguish us as newbies. The next year we wore two blue stripes. We worked hard for those stripes. The ultimate goal was to get the single black stripe that signaled that we were graduate nurses.

I know where you graduated from

Every nursing school had their own cap. So not only could patients identify us as nurses by our cap, nurses could tell which schools other nurses graduated from. On my first day of work as a graduate nurse, I wore my cap and a nurse’s pin that identified my nursing school. My uniform was a starched white uniform dress that fell mid-knee. I wore white stockings and white “Clinic” nurse’s shoes. I entered the hospital a proud representative of my profession.

The new look of the profession

That’s not what nurses are wearing today. Scrubs in all colors and prints have replaced white uniforms. White stockings and nurse’s shoes have been replaced with plastic clogs, sneakers, socks or knee-hi’s. You could see a nurse wearing a blue scrub suit that has a big picture of “Elmo” on it. She might have orange crocks on with decorative socks. This may be appropriate in a pediatric unit but I’ve seen this look in critical care areas. In my opinion, cutsey scrub prints juvenilize a health professional.

Strive for professionalism

Nurses are still depicted with caps on TV shows and in movies. I searched through lots of clip art to find an appropriate picture of a nurse for this post. Every picture has a nurse wearing a cap. This is the public image of the nurse. Like other professions (firefighters, police men and women), the cap is part of the uniform. Imagine men and women firefighters eliminating their hat and traditional uniform or police men and women wearing an assortment of styles and prints. No clean, highly polished black shoes. There is a place for a well-recognized uniform. I know I could never convince a young nurse today that the white uniform and cap should come back into style. Those days are over. I would like to see professional men and women in the nursing field look more professional. And I think my patients would too!

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17 Comments on ““We Wish Nurses Still Wore Caps!””

  1. Rachel Says:

    I couldn’t agree more that we should have more professional looking nurses uniforms. My friend and I have begun to look for patterns to sew a white nursing dress for our pinning ceremony, and i’m searching for a white nursing cap. We’re the only ones … everyone else thinks we’re weird. I just want to look like a nurse!

  2. junu Says:

    DON’T STICK ON TO OLD 60’s. THIS IS NEW ERA. It’s u who decide whether should be proffessional or not.

    • cwall34 Says:

      Times have changed that’s for sure! I’d like to hear more about what you think of the “new era” nurse. If I understand you right, I think what you are saying is that you don’t need a cap to be professional. Did I understand you correctly? If that is what you are saying, I agree with you. I just think that there is something to be said for a uniform that is easily identified by the people we take care of. How does the patient know who is who?

    • Catherine Says:

      Even our language has gotten sloppy. Dont u thnk?

  3. Danielle C. Meo Says:

    I agree about nurses wearing caps and a professional looking uniform! I am a retired nurse and now have been a patient several times and I cannot tell which person who enters my room,who is what? Some do not identify themselves and it is difficult to read their badges.The cleaning people wear the scrubs too so who knows? Also, I think that a person conducts his or herself differently when they are in uniform…. Sadly our entire country has been dumbed down with too much casuality!

  4. Lloyd Baltazar Says:

    In some countries, especially in Asia… male nurses do wear caps. Very limited, but like nursing schools in China and the Philippines, a few schools do wear caps. It is a status symbol for the nurse—much like the other professions you mentioned. While it is optional, I do feel that it adds a certain class and dignity to the image of the nurse which really has nothing to do with the modern times or whatnot.

    Nowdays, you cannot tell the difference between the Doctor, a CNA, a nurse or even a caregiver.

    Some nurses wear labcoats. Some surgeons wear scrubs, like CNA’s or Nurses. Nursing caps defined the nursing profession unlike other health care job positions.

  5. gatesofcerdes Says:

    I remember the old nurse’s caps and uniforms, and I always thought they looked silly, . I’d rather my nurse be casual and comfortable than stiff and starched. Nurses are human. Let them look like it.

    • Catherine Says:

      Silly is in the eye of the beholder. I don’t think the nurses of yesteryear did not look human, nor did they look uncomfortable. Younger adults do not have a personal experience of the days when people took pride in their appearance, especially for work, church, and school. They are so used to being casual they think anything else must be uncomfortable. It isn’t necessarily so.

      I think we all tend to look like slobs these days — unkempt, untidy, sloppy, and unprofessional. Casual clothes are suitable for casual occasions, such as after work, after school, weekends, etc. Professional work should require professional attire.

  6. Veronica Says:

    A nurse’s uniform should be something only a nurse can get, just like police officers uniform. Nurses are in charge of personal information, and your health, there should be a standard uniform for nurses regardless of how you look in it, or the effort in keeping it clean. What happened to people wanting to look professional, why is it everywhere you go everyone looks the same, poorly dressed, or barely dressed at all. When you dress casual you act casual,and you end up treating coworkers casually. When I see people out of uniform, I see them differently like, pilots, or policemen you no longer see them as an authority figure. People say “looks don’t matter” that’s only true for things you can’t change like a third eye, when you’re ill you don’t have the time or energy to get to know someone, you just want to see that they are a professional. I’ve worn scrubs, and yes they are very comfy, easily changed if soiled, no worries of flashing someone if tacked by a psych patient, but they are little more than pyjamas. I’m thoroughly convinced that scrubs are responsible for weight gain , if you knew that you had to wear a form fitting uniform you wouldn’t be so eager to eat that second piece of cheesecake. Ok the third eye was a lil much ..

    • Kelly Says:

      Wow, Veronica. You siphoned this straight from my own mind. I’ve just re-enrolled in college for a second bachelor’s degree (BSN) and am obsessing over everything nursing right now, so I looked this question up. Your response is spot-on. My grandmother was a nurse from the 1940’s until retiring in the early 80’s. She looked super-sharp in that old uniform. My parents keep her cap on display in a box to this day. I wish the distinct and distinguished uniform could be a part of my career, as well. I wonder if by the time I retire, they’ll be wearing cut-offs and flip flops to work!

    • Catherine Says:

      Veronica, I think you’re on to something. If we look at high school yearbooks or movies from the fifties or before, we see that to be fat is unusual; most people were fairly trim. Today it is just the opposite. And it is also true that back in those days people wore more form-fitting (and not necessarily uncomfortable) clothing. You can’t tell when you’re gaining weight if you wear sloppy clothes all the time.

      I used to enjoy getting new clothes for school, and for Easter. And I also enjoyed taking them off after school and church, so I could get into my “play clothes.” It felt good to climb into “weekend wear.” We’ve lost that opportunity to change clothes, mood, and stress level. We keep the same mood and stress level all the time now. It’s too bad.

  7. ggggggggggg Says:

    I love the nurses dress and caps! I am going to become a nurse after i graduate high school in a couple years and i think when nurses wear scrubs they look like cleaning ladies for the hospitals
    are u allowed to wear the dresses? i suppose u would look different tho then the other nurses haha

  8. PPP Says:

    I think it depends upon your ‘introduction’ into nursing. I entered nursing when nurses wore a white uniform, white shoes, usually clinics which were tie shoes, and a white cap. Everyone, staff, visitors and patients knew you were the nurse. Nurses, in my opinion, looked more professional. The problems associated with it were uniforms were at your expense, your cap could get caught in IV poles/tubing and there was always the nurse with a dirty cap. Most schools today (diploma, ASN, BSN) do not have a cap. Instead we see nurses with all types of scrubs and its hard for staff, visitors or patients to tell if they are a nurse or if they work in the laundry, respiratory, dietary, etc. A simple trade-off would be white scrubs with a cap. Our society is more relaxed and in my opinion this results in a trade-off of a professional-appearing nurse. Imagine what people would think if we saw doctors in scrubs with Winnie the Pooh, or cute little figurines; they too would look far from professional.

  9. Cindie Says:

    I don’t mind pediatric nurses or doctorrs wearing “cute” things to put their pediatric patients at ease, but I am an adult woman, and I don’t want to confuse the nurse with the cleaning woman. I’m a little “old school” in my dress.

  10. Fern Says:

    Nurses are nurses not doctors. I work in EMS and when I walk into an ER it’s hard to tell who is the MD and who is the Nurse. I have ofter walked into an ER and started to give a female doctor a report. The female staff(an ER doctor) looked annoyed and pointed to another female wearing green scrubs.


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