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Is your nurse uniform menopause-friendly?

Choosing uniforms in breathable, stretchy fabrics, darker colours and realistic sizes would help nurses face hot flushes, bloating and heavy bleeds at work

Choosing uniforms in breathable, stretchy fabrics, darker colours and realistic sizes would help nurses face hot flushes, bloating and heavy bleeds at work

Nurses should have access to more menopause-friendly uniforms to better support those going through symptoms like hot flushes, a women’s health nurse has said.

Uniforms can exacerbate the effects of menopause symptoms

RCN women’s health forum chair Katharine Gale told Nursing Standard that while financial constraints might prevent nurses’ uniforms from being standardised across the NHS, organisations providing lightweight clothing where possible and a more ‘realistic sizing’ of uniforms could go some way to help nurses manage their menopause symptoms.

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Choosing uniforms in breathable, stretchy fabrics, darker colours and realistic sizes would help nurses face hot flushes, bloating and heavy bleeds at work

Choosing uniforms in breathable, stretchy fabrics, darker colours and realistic sizes would help nurses face hot flushes, bloating and heavy bleeds at work
Picture: John Behets

Nurses should have access to more menopause-friendly uniforms to better support those going through symptoms like hot flushes, a women’s health nurse has said.

Uniforms can exacerbate the effects of menopause symptoms

RCN women’s health forum chair Katharine Gale told Nursing Standard that while financial constraints might prevent nurses’ uniforms from being standardised across the NHS, organisations providing lightweight clothing where possible and a more ‘realistic sizing’ of uniforms could go some way to help nurses manage their menopause symptoms.

‘A menopause-friendly employer would consult nursing staff on the current uniform and consider whether there are other options that would enable staff to be more comfortable,’ she said.

‘Many nurses say they find their uniforms uncomfortable in thick, non-breathable, often synthetic fabrics. Often nurses purchase their own trousers as the uniform trousers have a tailored waistband, which means the trousers are too tight and non-stretchy.’

When uniforms are fitted or made from non-breathable fabrics it can exacerbate the effects of menopause symptoms such as hot flushes, bloating and weight change, she adds.

Tips for supporting nurses at work during menopause

  • Potential reasonable adjustments to uniforms should be considered and then formally agreed
  • Natural fibres, such as cotton, are preferable to synthetic materials if someone is experiencing hot flushes and/or sweating. This could include an agreement to wear cotton scrubs
  • Consideration when choosing new uniforms should include the option for natural fibres
  • Access to showers and a change of uniform should be available if required during a shift
  • If uniform adjustments are not possible, it could be necessary to consider whether nurses struggling with symptoms could be moved to another role and location – but only as a last resort

Source: Katharine Gale, chair, RCN women’s health forum

Need for more menopause-friendly workplaces

Today marks World Menopause Day and Ms Gale is encouraging all healthcare organisations to take steps to becoming a menopause-friendly workplace in a bid to retain skilled nurses in mid-life and beyond.

Although menopause is not a protected characteristic, deliberate failure to make reasonable adjustments around uniform alterations or options could be classed as indirect discrimination under the protected characteristics of age or gender, Ms Gale said.

She added that more ‘realistic sizing’ of uniforms was important as many women experience bloating during menopause. She also said that heavy periods are a common issue during peri-menopause.

‘Some nurses and support staff are required to wear light-coloured trousers, causing concern and distress when they experience flooding and bleeding through their uniform at work,’ she said.

‘Hot flushes are only one of 34 menopausal symptoms, with many women experiencing bloating, therefore realistic sizing is also important.’

Meanwhile, advanced menopause specialist Debby Holloway said standardisation of uniforms should be considered while keeping menopause symptoms in mind.

‘You need a standard colour, a standard fabric and a standard design, possibly one or two designs that are lighter weight than traditional uniforms to allow personal preference in what people want to wear,’ she said.

‘If you were looking at everyone wearing a scrubs-type uniform, they’re generally lighter and roomier, so that might be something organisations could bring in for nurses.’


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