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Readers’ panel: Should national nursing uniforms be introduced in England?

Delegates at RCN congress 2019 debated whether national uniforms should be introduced in England, in line with the three other UK countries. Nursing Standard readers have their say

Delegates at RCN congress 2019 debated whether national uniforms should be introduced in England, in line with the three other UK countries. Nursing Standard readers have their say


NHS Scotland national uniforms.

Liz Charalambous is a staff nurse and PhD student in Nottingham
@lizcharalambou

Introducing a national uniform across England would be expensive, at a time when the nursing profession is facing more pressing matters, such as rising vacancies. Nursing uniforms have a long historical tradition, with inherent issues around power, gender, image and professional identity. But before making any radical and costly changes, it would be better to find out what nurses want and what the public expect, and establish an evidence base around the effectiveness of uniforms in relation to issues such as infection prevention.

 

Grant Byrne is a nursing student in Edinburgh
@GGByrne

With the introduction of the nursing associate role it is harder than ever for patients to distinguish nurses from other members of the healthcare team in England. I have worked across three Scottish health boards during my degree, yet the national uniform meant I could easily distinguish staff members from one another. It lets patients know who does what and prevents any confusion arising between clinical and housekeeping staff. Although the uniforms are no substitute for proper introductions, they help patients understand who people are at a glance. I hope England follows suit.

 

Rachel Kent is a mental health nurse in London

Similar uniforms have benefits – it can be confusing when a particular colour is worn by a charge nurse in one hospital and by a member of the domestic staff in another – but nurses must be consulted before a national uniform is introduced. In the current climate it could be an advantage to introduce uniforms that bond us to our colleagues in the rest of the UK, but uniforms can act as a barrier in mental healthcare. It would be important to identify who should be exempt from wearing a uniform. This could include those who work with people with dementia, who might feel reassured to see nurses dressed in everyday clothes.

 

Drew Payne is a community staff nurse in north London
@drew_london

Standardising nurses’ uniforms nationally would help patients, visitors and other health professionals identify who’s who in hospitals, making it easier to seek out the right staff member. But as a community nurse in north London I don’t wear a uniform, for my own safety, and this idea shouldn’t be used to force nurses who don’t wear a uniform back into one. I often walk past patients’ homes and don’t want to be easily identifiable as a nurse. Even though I don’t carry drugs in my work bag, I carry needles and syringes, and wearing a uniform could make me an easy target.


Readers’ panel members give their views in a personal capacity only

What nurses told the RCN congress debate on uniforms

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