We’ve all been there; a quiet waiting room with soft chairs and carefully stacked magazines, and one crazy kid running in circles and tearing everything down. Oh, the joys of doctor’s visits with a baby. My son was born hearing impaired, with many complications as a result. The first year of his life was a marathon of hospital visits and doctor’s appointments. They told me that after a while things would calm down, but he’s already almost two, and there’s still no end in sight.
For each visit my husband and I pack a bag stuffed with toys, books, and snacks, but he’s already bored of them all. I have an app on my phone with flashcards for toddlers; that worked for a while. The excitement has worn off, and we’re back to chasing him through the halls. Yesterday I discovered something new.
The two nurses who walked into our room were wearing bright, printed Dickies scrubs tops with butterflies. My son stopped mid-shriek, pointed at the scrubs, and sang out, “Fly, fly, butterfly…” He was smitten. His eyes followed the nurses around the room, and as they examined him we pointed out the different types of butterflies flitting on the scrubs while he shrieked and laughed. I wanted to take the medical scrubs home with me.
The nurses’ personalities matched their choice of scrubs; they were lively and warm, with ready laughs and lots of tolerance for little fingers poking at the butterflies on their tops. When I asked why all pediatric nurses don’t wear printed scrubs they responded that some offices have a dress code, and some nurses just don’t want to, they feel that it isn’t professional.
My son was charmed for the day, and I resolved to buy a stash of patterned Dickie scrubs to use for future visits. My son has excellent radar for smelling out nurses and anyone of the medical profession, but the kid-friendly scrubs totally disarmed him. My curiosity piqued, I did some research.
The Journal of Clinical Nursing published a study in April of 2009 about the use of non-conventional nurses’ attire in a pediatric hospital. The study was conducted at the Meyer Children’s Hospital in Florence, in which children between the ages of six and sixteen were introduced to multi-colored nursing scrubs. The reaction of the patients and their parents was studied using open ended questions and semantic differential scales. The survey was compared to gender and age matched controls that were obtained before the experiment.
The study analyzed the reactions of one hundred twelve hospitalized children and their parents. Before the colorful medical scrubs were introduced the percentage of positive words used by the children to describe their nurses was 81.8%. This number went up to 96.2% after the non-traditional scrubs were used. The survey found that the patients’ overall perception of their nurses improved with the multi-colored scrubs, as did parent’s assurance of the nurses’ capacity to calm and care for their children.
This was the only medical study I could find on the subject, and it reinforced the conclusion I had come to. However, many nurses avoid wearing child-friendly prints either because of personal preference or because they feel that this will hurt their professional image. An anonymous survey of nurses done by Health Resources Unlimited, LLC confirms this concern. Respondents to the survey believed that the way they presented themselves to patients and their families did have an effect on the way they were perceived, and many thought that cartoon scrubs undermined their authority. Some felt that scrubs with cartoon images would counteract a professional image.
I could understand the concern of maintaining a professional image, but as I browsed the multitude of printed scrubs available like Dickies scrubs, Cherokee prints, and others, I wished that more pediatric nurses would convey a child-friendly demeanor both in action and appearance.
To some degree I know that my son will continue to be difficult at doctor’s appointments, because that’s what toddlers are supposed to do, but if somewhere out there a nurse thinks about printed medical scrubs as a way to keep her little patients happy, then the many tantrums and my subsequent revelation will have amounted to something.