WILMINGTON, MA by Ronald D. Croatti - When it comes to identifying hospital personnel these days, the medical community could take a basic apparel lesson from the classic John Wayne cowboy movies where it was easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys. The good guys wore white hats; the bad guys black ones.
In contrast, given the rainbow of colors, clothing styles, and fabric patterns many doctors and nurses wear today, patients and their visitors can often have difficulty telling the difference between the professional and support staffs—which can potentially cause a delay in the delivery of necessary emergency medical attention.
It's for this reason that the Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, OH, this year began requiring its nurses to wear navy and white uniforms and other hospital workers to wear teal or sandstone scrubs. According to the director of the hospital's Center of Nursing Excellence, the new uniform policy gives nurses and their colleagues an immediate visual cue in emergency situations of who they can call on for assistance even if they don't know their coworkers.
"Many of our healthcare facilities have evolved to a point where uniform programs are not 'uniform,'" says Adam Soreff, a spokesman for UniFirst Corporation, which provides work apparel to a wide range of industries throughout the North America, as well as targeted business segments in Europe. "When adopted in a systematic, consistent manner, uniforms not only help to identify specific group members and improve overall communications among hospital staff, patients and visitors, they help create a strong, team-like feeling that contributes to achieving organizational goals."
Recognizing the inherent identification attributes of uniforms caught the attention of the Cleveland Clinic in 2005, when it mandated that all doctors and nurses wear white uniforms, so that they could be more easily identified by patients and project a more "professional" appearance. The Clinic then surveyed 499 patients and visitors three years later and found its hypothesis to be absolutely true.
A similar experiment to Cleveland's is currently being contemplated in the United Kingdom where the Royal College of Nursing is investigating if a single "national" uniform should be adopted for medical personnel as a means to eliminating identity confusion.
According to Soreff, standardization of apparel does not equate with bland appearances. "There's plenty of room within standardized dress codes and managed uniform programs for unique customization by taking advantage of advanced personalization options, accessories, fabric shades and patterns."
And once an enterprise has the right identifying look, Soreff says an equally important factor to consider is wearer comfort. "By selecting the proper styling and fabrics, an organization can help ensure their employees—particularly those who tend to work long hours like medical staffs—are not distracted by their clothing and, instead, remain firmly focused on their tasks so they can fulfill organizational goals."
UniFirst (NYSE: UNF), a North American leader in the supply and servicing of uniforms, workwear, and protective clothing, outfits more than 1.5 million workers each business day. The company's most popular brands include UniWeave®, SofTwill®, UniWear®, and Armorex FR®. UniFirst also offers Facility Service Programs including floor mats, mops, and restroom products. For more information, contact UniFirst at 800-455-7654 or visit www.unifirst.com.