Florence Nightingale is responsible for more than just the medical reforms that made nursing what it is today. She’s the reason why nurses wear scrubs instead of lab coats because she suggested nurses should have a different uniform than doctors, so they would be easy to spot. Today, scrubs provide the wearer with an air of credibility and authority, but there are more choices than ever for scrubs for women. Here’s what to look for on your next scrub top shopping trip.
7 Qualities to Look For in Scrub Tops for Women
While it may seem tempting to buy cheaper scrub tops so you can get more variety and avoid doing as much laundry, especially when you start your first nursing job, this isn’t the best choice. Scrubs are an investment, and you need them to withstand repeated washings with strong cleaners. Buying scrubs is not the time to try to save money. Spend a bit more on high-quality scrub tops and add to your collection over time. You’ll spend less money in the long run because you won’t be replacing them as often. Look for double seams on stress points like pockets and the neckline. Reinforced panels on elbows and pockets are also signs of quality.
2. Comfort and Functionality
You live in your scrubs, so they should be comfortable and functional. Cotton fabrics are comfortable, but they aren’t always the most practical option for nurses. Cotton is highly absorbent and retains moisture more than other fabrics. If it becomes wet during the day or you’re sweating in a high-stress environment, your scrubs can foster bacterial growth and irritate your skin.
Polyester is a popular choice among nurses because of its durability and resistance to wrinkles. Although its moisture-resistant qualities benefit those working in a medical facility, especially in patient care, the material is hydrophobic, which can trap heat and make you sweat more. The best choice is typically a fabric blend, such as a polyester and spandex or rayon top.
While a top that’s 95% polyester will hold its shape and last for years, a 5% blend of spandex or rayon provides a nice texture and makes the fabric more absorbent, allowing you to remain comfortable at work. High-stretch poly-cotton microfiber blends are ideal. They are both breathable to release perspiration and heat while also offering abrasion resistance to reduce wear and tear.
At one time, scrubs were primarily unisex, often leaving women with ill-fitting, bagging tops that posed a snag-hazard at work. Now, scrub designers are making scrub tops specifically for the shape of a woman’s torso so nurses can enjoy a secure, professional-looking fit. Women should look for scrub tops with princess seams and darts tailored to their shape to avoid the oversized t-shirt look, which can impede mobility.
There are several types of necklines to choose from depending on your style, including:
- Snap front
- Notch neck
Choose a neckline that is comfortable for you. It shouldn’t restrict you by being too tight but also needs to be professional. When you’re working in a hospital unit that requires all employees to don the same scrub color, a unique neckline is one way to express your personal style. Work a few shifts in a new neckline before committing to an entire wardrobe with the same design, to ensure you feel comfortable.
Source: Dusan Petkovik/Shutterstock.com
While all nurses need pockets to keep spare gloves, alcohol swabs, a cell phone and a pen handy, the location and number of pockets necessary are hotly debated and are just a matter of preference. Scrub tops often come with standard-sized chest pockets, which are great for small items. Patch pockets are also popular; these are deeper to hold larger objects like a cell phone. The weight of the objects in the pocket pulls the neckline down, stressing the neck and shoulders over a long shift. In that case, it’s best to look for cargo pant scrubs to carry your items throughout the day. If you decide scrub tops with pockets are best for you, test them by putting objects in them and then bending over. You don’t want things falling out of your pocket and onto a patient or an unsanitary surface.
Scrub tops come in a rainbow of colors and patterns so you can express your personality through your wardrobe. For example, fun-patterned scrub tops can make a child smile during their exam by giving them something fascinating to look at, and a brightly colored scrub top can make you stand out in a crowded emergency room to make it easier for a patient to remember you. Darker colored tops also hide stains better. Before you purchase scrub tops, check the dress code for your workplace. Many hospitals require nurses to wear specific colors based on their specialty, and some offices need everyone to wear the same uniform.
Your scrubs should fit snugly enough that loose fabric won’t be in your way but loose enough that you have free range of motion. If you get cold frequently, consider buying a short-sleeve scrub top that is one size larger so you can comfortably wear a long-sleeve shirt underneath it.
Consider a special size if you are taller or shorter than the average woman. If you are taller than 5'9″, buying tall scrub tops may provide a better fit. These will be a bit longer than traditionally sized scrubs, but the rest of the fit will run the same, so you won’t expose your midriff whenever you extend your arms. If you are shorter than 5'4″, buying petite scrub tops might be more flattering. These will be the same as traditionally sized scrubs but a bit shorter in the torso.
Source: Rocketclips Inc./Shutterstock.com
When in Doubt, Opt for Comfort
The most crucial factor for a scrub top is comfort. It can have lots of pockets and fancy patterns, but it’s not worth it if you aren’t comfortable during a 12-hour shift. Only after you find the comfort and functionality you need in a high-quality product should you explore aspects like color and pattern.