Today, everywhere that healthcare and caregiving happens, a variety of uniforms are a commonly accepted part of the environment. Scrubs, lab coats, tunics and polos are an iconic element of hospitals, clinics and age care homes.
These garments provide the invaluable service of keeping their wearers comfortable, clean and protected against the potential hazards of working in health care. They also serve another function, which helps patients, visitors and workers alike – identification.
Identification plays a vital role in patient experiences in all healthcare facilities. It reassures patients of the quality of care being administered, and reduces any potential confusion in locating the correct staff member. Moreover, a uniform helps to define professional boundaries, identity and pride for employees.
Read on to find out more on why identification is so important for health care uniforms, and how you can create a uniform to help benefit your staff, your patients and your brand.
How Healthcare Uniforms Benefit Patients
Ensuring that your staff and your brand are correctly represented is critical to patient safety, security and overall satisfaction.
Your healthcare staff uniform needs to look contemporary, trustworthy and appropriate for the task at hand. Visual cues of professionalism offer security and assurance to patients that they are receiving the highest quality of care. If they can see a staff member clearly they will know exactly who to ask when they need to reach out for help.
Safety and Security
Whether in a hospital, an aged care home, or a clinic, easily identifiable staff are reassuring to a patient who is in need of immediate care. Every patient can be confident that if the need arises, they will be swiftly attended to. Clear staff identification also prevents private medical information mistakenly passing to the wrong person. This means patients can be confident and comfortable communicating their needs. Easy identification also makes it easy to spot when a visitor has wandered into a staff-only area.
In a 2014 study, 41% of adults surveyed said that they would feel safer in a hospital setting if staff were easily identifiable by their uniform. Many patients can experience confusion, anxiety and concern when in care, so any small details that can help improve their quality of life are worthy investments.
Satisfaction and Trust
In the same study, patients reported having difficulty identifying the correct staff member when uniforms did not clearly communicate role. This directly impacted patient satisfaction scores, which are highly influenced by response times in healthcare settings. Over 2/3 of the adults surveyed said that being able to easily distinguish an employees role would improve their experience as a patient. Moreover, patients considered practitioners generally more trustworthy, knowledgeable and caring when dressed in formal professional attire or setting-appropriate attire, such as scrubs and a white coat. Healthcare uniforms are a nonverbal, conscious statement that they have the skills and knowledge to care for others.
On an individual level, medical professionals and caregivers need their image to match their level of expertise to enhance the patient experience. On an organisational level, a thoughtful, cohesive uniform for your staff communicates a highly functional and reliable environment to those in their care.
How Healthcare Uniforms Help Create Professional Identity and Healthy Boundaries
When you put on a uniform, you aren’t just putting on clothes. You’re putting on a representation of your workplace, your occupation, your professional identity and worth. For healthcare workers, their uniform needs to perform at it’s very best to instill pride in the wearer.
A healthcare provider works long shifts in taxing and potentially risky environments. They’re in uniform for well over 12 hours at a time. It needs to be able to withstand whatever that day might bring, whether it’s morning rounds, surgery, linen changes, consultations, medicine runs or emergency calls. No one will argue that it’s one of the toughest jobs on the planet; a uniform that supports comfort and professional performance will be invaluable during those difficult moments.
Just as personal appearance is an important external expression of personal identity, uniforms in healthcare symbolise status and group identity. Studies have shown that uniforms provide a sense of pride to healthcare workers. Asking student doctors to wear scrubs and white coats in one study demonstrated an improvement in performance, confidence and positive emotions. This was in part because putting on a uniform made them feel more like a doctor.
Pride in the Job
Significantly, there is a general preference among healthcare workers for uniforms that identify occupational boundaries within an organisation. Clear, visible symbols on uniforms help to define roles and responsibilities, and support the self-esteem of those that wear them, as they more closely align with their specific job. The uniform is a strongly symbolic item for many healthcare workers, especially in forming their professional identity. One study reported that nurses “didn’t feel like a nurse without one”.
Boundaries and Self-Care
Professional identity is more than just performance when you’re on the job. It’s also the ability to switch off and allow yourself to recover, rest and heal when you’re off the clock. Working in healthcare is not only physically taxing, it can be emotionally taxing too. A uniform is a simple way of helping staff to put up healthy boundaries between their private and professional personas. Putting on and taking off a uniform is a powerful symbolic process that helps keep the emotional stress and responsibilities of their role contained to the workplace.
How To Design Cohesive Healthcare Uniforms
We’ve outlined just how crucial uniforms and easy identification is in a healthcare environment, now let’s talk about how actually create that uniform range. An easily identifiable uniform is only of benefit when the whole look is also visually appealing, functional and representative of your brand. A patient might be able to easily find the correct staff member, but what if they think their uniform looks disorganised and therefore less trustworthy? You might love a new look, but that’s useless if it isn’t also practical: a hardworking nurse or attendant won’t feel energised for a 12-hour shift if they have to step into uncomfortable scrubs.
When you’re designing the uniform for your organisation, it’s more than just choosing scrubs and a tunic for your staff. The design, colour, fabric and much more require your careful consideration.
Uniforms should always reflect a company’s brand and purpose. This ensures that every staff member is communicating what the company is about with every patient interaction.
Your range needs to tell a story: your brand story. This doesn’t mean that all uniforms need to look the same, as different roles have different requirements. However, your uniform range should be high quality and cohesive across all departments, to reflect your standards and foster a sense of unity amongst staff. Most scrubs, tunics, polos, shirts and lab coats can also be embroidered with your organisation logo. A patient that associates your logo with high-quality care is a positive reinforcement about your brand. To find out more about branding options, read our blog about Uniform Branding.
You can’t expect your team to feel proud in their uniform if they’re forced to wear something outdated or ill-fitting. Creating a stylish, well-considered range will keep your brand image fresh, up-to-date and much more appealing to clients. Your staff will perform better if they feel better, and who doesn’t feel good when they know they look good?
Consider your brand colour palette, and how to incorporate this significantly into your range. Colours can have a huge impact on people, both emotionally and physically. Blue and green can often have a calming effect, and whilst red is often associated with anger or pain, it can help stimulate people with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Speak to your team, and see what their preferences are! Don’t bother offering collared shirts if you know your staff will always prefer a more casual option, and don’t offer 5 different style of skirt if you know that trousers are the more practical choice. Always consider styles that work for every body, and provide options for people of diverse religious backgrounds and gender identity to cultivate an inclusive workplace.
The visual appeal of your range is important, but you can’t prioritise aesthetics over practicality. Workwear is very different from weekend wear – especially those working in health. For those on their feet for long hours, doing physically labour, and interacting with biohazardous material, comfort and safety is paramount. Invest in materials that are stain-resistant, easy to wash and anti-bacterial. Choose garment designs that give them enough room to move and are practical on any body. Incorporate warm and cold weather options for those who operate in an environment that isn’t temperature controlled. All of these choices will have a major impact on your staff’s daily happiness.
Another detail often overlooked is allocation. Are you giving your staff enough uniforms to get them through the week? Do you provide on site laundry services, or do they need to care for their own uniforms? Ensure that your busy, hardworking staff aren’t scrambling to find a clean uniform for their final shift.
Details are everything. Creating a company uniform policy that outlines dress standards will save you and your staff a lot of confusion. A uniform policy also ensures consistency and polish in your staff look. Address questions like:
- Which uniform items are for each department?
- Should shirts be tucked in or out?
- What type and colour of shoes are appropriate?
- What is the jewellery policy?
- Which tops, bottoms and outerwear should/shouldn’t be worn together?
- What are the standards for cleanliness and presentation?
If you’re going to the effort of creating a team image through uniform, it makes sense to follow through with the detail on how it should be worn. Ultimately, your brand, team and clients will benefit the most from a uniform that is worn properly and with pride.
Interested in finding out more about how to create your perfect healthcare uniform? Speak to one of our Uniform Experts to find out how we can help you begin your Uniform Journey.
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Do you need help working out the best uniform range for you and your business? We can help! To ensure we direct you to the best person in our team to discuss your requirements – whether your uniform and promotional needs are now or in the future – let’s learn a bit more about you. We look forward to speaking soon!