Modern scrubs are used by all sorts of professionals, from dentists to nurses and surgeons. Considering how standardized they seem, it’s easy to think that scrubs have always been the same. Actually, scrubs have changed a lot over the years so that they can better fit the needs of medical professionals.
While we associate doctors with white coats and nurses with fun scrub uniforms, back in the 1900s doctors wore black coats and formal attire. We can only presume that besides the somber nature of their job, the black helped hide stains a common problem in the medical world.
1900 Doctor Wearing Black Coat
Unfortunately for patients, the next attempt at medical attire was the apron. These white aprons were allowed to get covered with blood and other bodily fluids and rather than sterilizing them, the nurses and doctors continued on. With the early attempts at surgery being so bloody, this led to a lot of infection. Even now, with plastic aprons, it’s very important to change them between patients, so as to not spread infection.
When it became clear that cleanliness was paramount in disease control medical professionals switched to white coats. While now doctors generally wear white coats over more professional attire, at this point most people simply wear them over regular clothing. Nurses, on the other hand, were required to wear dresses. They were required to be in a solid color, unlike modern patterned scrub uniforms, and were also uncomfortable to wear. This made basic tasks very difficult, reducing the efficiency of nurses.
As sanitation became even more of an issue in the medical world, understanding how it saved patients’ lives, the practice of “scrubbing” became important.
While scrub uniforms weren’t exactly implemented, the drapes and gowns of medical professionals could be referred to as “proto-scrubs.” The color of choice for these uniforms was originally white, so that it was easy to see whether or not the uniforms were dirty. That was quickly changed though, as the bright lights during surgery reflected off of the white uniforms, causing eye-strain. And the last thing you need is for a surgeon to have a hard time seeing.
So what did they do about it? They switched to a neutral green which is by far one of the most common colors of scrub uniforms, even now. In fact, it’s so common that the phrase “surgical greens” became popular. This era showed a lot of changes in medicine in general. This was when we first started having dedicated operating rooms and a real understanding of germ theory.
Modern Doctors Wearing Green Scrubs
After the drapes and gowns of these original operating rooms, we move to what we think of as the modern scrub. These scrub uniforms include the loose drawstring pants and comfortable short-sleeved shirt that make moving easy. By the 1980s this was the norm for all medical professionals, including female nurses.
For a long time, though, scrub uniforms were considered unisex. This caused some problems for female medical professionals as they weren’t really tailored for their body. There was also difficulty finding scrubs for larger professionals. Modern manufacturers have fixed this problem, tailoring scrubs for both men and women as well as offering a wide range of sizes.
Modern scrubs have lasted a long time, but considering how far we’ve come, it makes you wonder: what will medical professionals wear in the future?