One of the important aspects of being an LPN are the LPN uniforms that you are expected to wear. There are some overall standards governing these uniforms, but in some cases the actual clothing that you need to wear in your job can vary from facility to facility. Usually nurses, including LPNs, wear white clothes, but there are certain exceptions to this rule. Understanding what you can and cannot wear is extremely important.
According to dictionary.com a uniform can be described in the following way: “An identifying outfit or style of dress worn by the members of a given profession, organization, or rank”.
It is therefore a standard form of dress for a specific group of people. This can vary based on a number of factors including:
- Social factors
- Organization preference
LPNs working in different settings may be required to wear different uniforms based on the above three factors. For example, a file nurse working in Africa may wear a different uniform to one working in an US-based hospital in a major city.
LPNs tend to dress in layers. The nature of these layers depends on the facility where you work. The outer layer will consist of the uniform determined by the facility where you work and will often simply be nursing scrubs. These scrubs will be of the color specified and preferred by your employer, although in most cases they will be white. Aquamarine is another popular color for scrubs. In some cases nurses with different levels of skills, such as LPNs vs. RNs, will wear scrubs of different colors to denote their specific position in the facility’s hierarchy.
Other Clothing With Support
Under the uniform specified by your employer you will have more freedom in terms of what you wear. One thing that is recommended, especially in cases where you will do a great deal of heavy lifting, is an undergarment that can provide back support. These are commonly acceptable in most nursing fields. LPNs who plant to work in nursing homes, for example, may want to consider undergarments that provide support. This is because elderly patients frequently require lifting and carrying throughout the day, something that can take its toll on your back muscles if the proper precautions are not taken to prevent this.
The most common type of LPN uniforms worn in the United States of America are scrubs. Other types of uniforms may appear more aesthetically pleasing, but there are a number of very practical advantages to wearing scrubs:
- Scrubs are more comfortable
- Scrubs allow great freedom of movement
- Scrubs are relatively inexpensive
- Scrubs are very easy to launder
Scrubs are, generally speaking, white, but color variations may occur depending on the facility and the patient demographic with which you most frequently come into contact on a day to day basis.
Initially there were not many standards for nurses in terms of uniforms. As the years passed standards started to develop, but up until relatively recently these standards were highly conservative and constrained to the clothes that were generally considered to be appropriate for women to wear. In most cases women were required to wear hats and skirts, as well as shoes with heels, as this was considered gender appropriate. However, as acceptance for equality between men and women started to develop, and as comfort for nurses became more important, scrubs began to become popular. Now they are the most common uniform for LPNs.
There are several functions of wearing scrubs:
- They are more comfortable and generally allow LPNs to work more effectively and more efficiently.
- They make it easier for patients to identify who is a member of staff in the health care facility and who is not, thereby creating an atmosphere of professionalism that is important in terms of the comfort of the patient.
However, that being said, many patients prefer to see nurses in more professional attire, such as formalized uniforms, rather than in scrubs which certain patients (elderly ones in particular) view as unsuitable for women to wear.
The main feature of a scrub uniform is that it is made of a material that can be washed easily. In addition the garment is designed in such a way that it can be taken off easily and it does not take long to change. This is very important for nurses as they work in environments where their uniforms can become stained and soiled regularly and consequently they may need to change on a regular basis. Keeping clean is an important part of being a nurse, and, consequently, many LPNs keep a spare uniform or two on hand at all times.
It must be noted that not all facilities use scrubs as a way to delineate LPNs from the other healthcare professionals that work there. There are several facilities where everyone is required to wear scrubs of some kind, including the radiologists and doctors, and this simply exists as a way to show who is a staff member at that facility and who is a patient. It also levels the playing field and indicates that all workers at that facility are equally valued by the management structure by eliminating the need to openly display hierarchical structures.
Nursing Children: Uniform Conventions
Nurses working with children in pediatric wards may wear brightly colored scrubs that include pictures of popular cartoon characters and other pictures. This serves to put the children at their ease and look on the LPN as a fun person who can be trusted rather than as a cold and clinical person who dresses in much the same way as a doctor. It opens up a line of communication between the nurse and the child. However, this is not necessarily a norm, and any LPN who is starting a job in a pediatric facility or department still need to clarify the dress code for that particular facility before purchasing such exotic scrubs.
In most health care facilities where in-patients are admitted, such as hospitals and hospices, LPN uniforms generally consist of just one, solid color, and all LPNs are required to wear the same uniform. Generally this color will be white. In some cases the logo of the facility will be stamped on the uniform. In doctor’s offices and certain larger facilities patterned or colored uniforms may be worn. In home health care settings nurses have more freedom in terms of the color of their clothes and can wear uniform pants and a business casual top if they would prefer.
Shoes: Comfortable Footwear
The nature of an LPNs job requires a lot of foot work and you will be on your feet for extended periods of time. Consequently comfortable footwear is essential:
- Usually LPNs wear solid colored shoes (usually black or white)
- Supportive shoes are preferred as you will be on your feet for long periods of time
- Arch and back support is important
- Comfort is important (this is a fairly personal dimension)
- Clogs or other support shoes without ties are often worn for ease and comfort
- A non-slip sole is essential for safety and accident prevention
Although scrubs are the more common type of uniform, there are still facilities that require more structured and ‘professional’ LPN uniforms. Two examples of variations are:
- Nursing uniforms including the nursing dress and hat
- Surgical gowns and caps
In many cases these variations can compromise on comfort as well as on the nurse’s ability to provide adequate and safe care to a patient. Fortunately most variations are found outside the US and there are very few industries and facilities within this country where scrubs are not the norm. Generally speaking, white scrubs are a safe option to go with when uncertain.
Generally speaking it is better to avoid jewelry. If your facility allows earrings, wear only small studs that cannot be yanked out by equipment or panicked patients. Necklaces should be avoided as a rule, even if they are allowed by your facility, because these can be grabbed and pulled by patients and can also become tangled up with machinery and equipment. You must also avoid wearing dirty clothes. Apart from giving an unprofessional look, dirty scrubs can transmit illnesses from one patient to another. Washing your work clothes frequently is an absolutely essential aspect of being an LPN.
The actual dress codes for LPNs from facility to facility can vary rather significantly, so the important idea here is that you adhere to the uniforms required of your specific place of work. Adherence to the dress code communicates professional behavior as well as a respect for your employer that has no limitations on it. When it comes to additional items of clothing, such as jewelry, again, the rules will differ depending on where you work. Information regarding LPN uniforms will be provided when you are offered the job, allowing you ample time to adhere to the standards.