The basic style of clothing worn by nurses around the world is the same. It is recognizable regardless of the few variants that are introduced in different institutions. Traditionally, a nurse uniform comprises a dress, apron and cap. The main purpose of the attire is for identification and hygienic reasons.
In the early days, nuns were the people who cared for the sick and injured. For this reason, the uniform worn by nurses initially looked a lot like a nun's habit. The natural progression was for trained nurses to dress in a similar fashion to the nuns.
A student at Florence Nightingale's school of nursing designed one of the early nurses' uniforms. By the 1940s minor changes had been introduced to this attire. The dominant color was blue. It was in order for individual hospitals to design the apparel worn by their nurses. The cap in particular appeared in many different styles. The National Health Service came into being in Britain in 1948 and at this time, the national uniform for British nurses was introduced.
Over time changes continued to appear. In the 1960s the neck line was opened. When the 1970s came along, the cotton caps were replaced with disposable paper ones. Around the 1980s the traditional aprons were replaced by plastic ones. In the 1990s scrubs appeared in America and soon gained in popularity in Britain. Many British nurses as well as those in other countries prefer to wear dresses.
The nurse's outfit of the past included a dress, pinafore apron and nurse's cap. Student nurses in some hospitals wore a nursing pin as well. A cobbler style apron replaced the pinafore apron in certain countries or institutions. This style of dress is still worn in many countries.
Some countries have introduced changes to the traditional apparel for nurses especially since the late 1980s. UK nurses are seen in tunic style tops with dark blue trousers. The color indicates the grade of the nurse. The designs are the best possible for prevention of cross infection. Piping around the edges is a common feature. Dresses are sometimes the same color as the tops. Male nurses wear white tunics with epaulets in specific colors to depict their grades.
Nurses are required to wear red jackets when they are outdoors. They are not allowed to wear their uniforms without the jacket when they are outside the place of work. This may be deemed a punishable offence.
Scrubs and tunics are more popular in Western Europe and North America. Third world countries prefer the traditional uniforms. The "scrub dress" worn in operating rooms is a simpler style.
Since the early 1990s some countries have replaced the traditional apparel with the scrub dress. Hospitals in the USA and Europe claim that the scrub dress is easier to clean when compared to the traditional outfits. Many countries still opt for the white uniform dress and cap for their nurses. The dental surgeon style tunic with a collar or v-neck is the most popular male nurse uniform.