Scrubs: Unprofessional or practical?

Scrubs: Unprofessional or practical?

Veterinarians and team members heatedly debate whether scrubs should serve as the team uniform.
Nov 04, 2008
By staff

What constitutes appropriate work attire is a matter of personal opinion—very personal. Articles in the April 2008 and September 2008 issues of Firstline say scrubs should not be the team uniform because they're sloppy and unprofessional. Based on the outcries, it seems the majority of veterinarians and team members think scrubs are more than work-appropriate—they're indispensable. Read the first-person responses below.

We're constantly kneeling on the floor, getting urinated on, vomited on, or anal glands expressed on us by anxious patients. We do messy work—that's why we wear scrubs.
    Scrubs are fine as long as they're ordered in the appropriate size. Many women don't fit the standard unisex scrubs. I personally purchase my own scrubs so they fit well. I've seen my fair share of assistants, especially men, that wear their scrub pants low on their hips so they look like they're wearing pajamas. This is extraordinarily frustrating since we're trying to gain a client's trust. Many hospitals don't promote technicians as main members of the team, and assistants need this recognition as well.
    I can see why polo shirts and khaki pants might be appropriate in a practice that doesn't get down and dirty with their patients. For example, a specialty clinic might not do the "dirty work"; of standard practices. It basically boils down to this: The management and owner need to decide that attire by what type of medicine they provide.
    Ellen Carozza, AAS, LVT   
    Capital Cat Clinic
    Arlington, Va.

Nurses wear scrubs. Aren't we supposed to be the veterinary equivalent? When I used to take my dog to the vet, I always thought scrubs meant professionalism. Khakis and a collared shirt remind me of dress-down Fridays in the corporate world. I don't want to see that when my pet needs care. And what happens when the emergency comes in and needs immediate surgery? Do you really need to waste precious minutes changing into scrubs?
    I appreciate wearing scrubs every day at my hospital. Each department has its own color (teal for outpatient, purple for the lab, etc.), and we all wear our scrubs proudly. When they get dirty (notice I said when, not if), you can toss them into the wash and not worry about them getting ruined. When I put my scrubs on, my attitude changes. I go from being 'just me' to 'proud veterinary technician.' That attitude helps me save pets' lives.
    Kyle Wendy Skultety, outpatient technician
    Red Bank Veterinary Hospital
    Tinton Falls, N.J.

I'm a certified technician and registered nurse, and I disagree with khakis and polos as a uniform for veterinary medical staff. Guess who already wears this uniform? A popular donut shop and fast food chain. To me, it represents commercialism and lack of medical training.
    Tidy, well-fitting scrubs look more medically appropriate. Perhaps a colored lab jacket on top would add a more professional touch when talking to clients. I have a medical background and want to be perceived as a medical professional, not just an employee with a logo.
    Christine O’Neill, CVT, BSN
    Canterbury Tails Veterinary Clinic
    Ware, Mass.

I always like to read topics with a critical eye. It would help me with my decision-making if authors would include citations before making blanket statements. I'd love to see studies on client perception of professional dress. Do client truly "notice a difference and pay better attention to the staff and doctors" because they're wearing khakis and polos over scrubs?
    I'd like to reconcile these suggestions with the possibility that we could be exposing our patients to harm with our attire. I did some research on my own and found that the British Medial Association (BMA) revised their dress code in 2007 to ban wearing neckties because about half were contaminated with bacteria. The BMA also concluded that short-sleeved shirts were more hygienic because long sleeves are a source of contamination. Short-sleeved shirts also led to better hand-washing practices.
    Dr. Sue Boyadjian
    Adana Veterinary Clinic
    Freeville, N.Y.