Image, it seems, continues to be an important part of interactive perceptions. For instance, I think we would all feel a little uncomfortable if the two people sitting in the cockpit of the Boeing 747 were dressed in shorts and Gold’s Gym tank tops. Even forgetting for the moment that the standard pilot’s uniform is more reminiscent of a parking lot comissionaire than a professional aviator, they just look more competent wearing the uniform. Carrying the thought a little further, we would have some difficulty accepting the roadside dictates of an RCMP officer dressed in anything other than a regulation RCMP uniform. I wonder then, why nurses, especially those in North America, have eschewed wearing standard uniforms and have instead opted for apparel that is indistinguishable from that worn by a bedside TV salesperson.
Professional nurses currently have huge problems attracting and retaining young people in the business and we have been hearing from our nurse colleagues for years that their work is not appreciated by hospital administrators, bureaucrats, and legislators. A recent survey conducted primarily in North America concluded a large percentage of nurses feel unappreciated by society generally and by people in power specifically.
I was wondering if some of the problem could be a loss of recognition status because of the seemingly deliberate move to make themselves indistinguishable from everyone else in the hospital. I realize that nurses do, in fact, look kind of different with the semi-uniform most of them now wear while on duty. However, I wonder if nurses, as a group, decided to return to a recognizable, standard uniform, just what kind of perceptual impact it would have on patients and through them, eventually, on administrators and legislators.
I don’t know if I would be in favor of returning to those awful, nerdy hats, but in my hospital there has been a British-trained nurse who has insisted on wearing her standard nurse’s uniform, complete with the nerdy hat. I wondered about this somewhat aberrant-looking person’s motives, but in short order I was impressed with the kind of deference shown her by patients, other nurses, and auxiliary floor staff.
I’m sure I will get a boatload of nasty mail from my nurse friends once this is published, but for a group that seems to be struggling to find a rejuvenated image, this might be something to think about.
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