When I started nursing school last fall at Emory, one of the more confusing topics (aside from Pathophysiology) was the dress code for clinical and lab settings. I had heard from other students that it was allowable to wear certain articles of clothing or shoes, while the student handbook stated differently.
First thing’s first: When in doubt, GO BY THE STUDENT HANDBOOK! If you are ever questioning whether or not you are appropriately attired for clinical or lab refer to the written guidelines.
Below is your basic uniform for clinical and lab. Honestly, this is all you need (plus white socks!). The simpler, the better.
Here are some tips on what NOT to wear in the lab or clinical setting:
1. Nail Polish/Fake Nails. Trust me on this one, y’all. You will want to be able to see what is under those finger nails after a 12 hour shift of wound care. Also, fake nails are known to slice through gloves and get lost in patients’ bed sheets (yuck!)
2. Your Hair Down. Tie that hair back! The last thing you want is your hair dragging through a patient’s wound or blocking your eyesight while trying to insert an IV. It’s a good idea to always carry extra hair ties and clips.
3. Tattoos. Emory requires that you cover up any visible tattoos while you are in the lab and at your clinical sites. I’ve seen some pretty creative ways to cover up a tattoo, but I’ve heard that bandaids usually work the best. However, some people use makeup as well depending on the size and placement of the tattoo. It would be best to do some trial and error to discover what works before your first day of lab.
4. Long Sleeve Shirts Under Your Scrub Top. Coming from someone who is permanently cold, this can be very difficult. However, it is against the guidelines to wear a long-sleeve shirt under your scrub top for sanitary purposes. Instead, you can purchase a navy blue or white cuffed long-sleeved jacket to keep you warm in lab or at your clinical sites. Uniform Advantage has cuffed, long-sleeved jackets available and you can get our logo embroidered on it through them.
5. Jewelry that Dangles….Or Jewelry in General. For the most part, wearing jewelry at lab or in clinical is not a good idea. Anything that dangles from your wrist, your neck, or your ears is bound to get caught on something or worse, caught IN something (*shudders*). Rings can also cause a problem as they can easily slice through gloves. A good rule of thumb is just to leave your jewelry at home where it is safe and out of the way. One small stud per ear is okay, and wedding bands are permissible. Do not, I repeat, do not wear your engagement ring to lab or clinical! I heard a horrible story about a nursing student who lost the stone from her engagement ring while changing a patient’s bed and it was never found.
6. Your Workout Sneakers. While at your clinical sites you are going to step in some gross stuff and even more gross stuff is going to spill on your shoes (I speak from unfortunate experience). You want to wear shoes that are durable and can easily be washed. Get some comfortable, solid white or black leather or vinyl shoes and leave your sneakers at home. Once again, Uniform Advantage has a great shoe selection, but there are other shopping options (such as Amazon) that you can explore.
7. Jeans. I know, I know, this one seems obvious, but it needs to be said. There will be times when you will need to wear your long, white lab coat and under that lab coat can be a) your Emory scrubs or b) business casual attire. NO JEANS! See below for some appropriate examples.
8. Open-Toed Shoes. One of the most painful experiences that I have had is a gurney rolling over my toes, and I was wearing close-toed shoes. Imagine if they had been open….needless to say, all shoes must be close-toed in the lab and in the clinical setting.
9. Forgetting Your ID Badge. You need to have your ID badge with you AT ALL TIMES in the lab and at the clinical sites. That badge is your lifeline and it helps to identify you as an Emory student. It helps you get in and out of parking garages, medication rooms, and hospital units, just to name a few. It is costly to replace and difficult to go a day without, so be diligent about keeping it within reach.