Monday, July 15, 2013


I wrote this blog a while ago on my RTConnections blog. It has been one of my most popular blog posts, so I've adapted it for my New Nurse Success Shop blog. Why? Because, if you want to have a happy and successful nursing career, you need to understand the importance of appearance and what NOT to wear!

One way we inspire confidence (or lack of confidence) in our patients and colleagues is by what we wear. Although as humans, we like to express our individuality, we need to be mindful of how we express ourselves in the work environment. By knowing what not to wear, as a new nurse, you can use this to your advantage and be viewed as a competent professional right from the beginning of your career.

Susan looked like Barbie – really. Her hair was big and blond, her make-up thick and bold, and her cleavage available for everyone’s viewing pleasure. To make things worse, aside from looking inappropriate as a bedside nurse, Susan was close to retirement age! Although she was a good nurse, nobody believed it – not even her patients. Initially, some of her patients even asked for a different nurse. Just based on her appearance, they made an assumption that she was incompetent.

You are judged - like it or not - by what you wear. Now that you've earned your nursing degree, you've entered into a profession. And, as a professional, it's critically important that you look like a professional.

Tips to dress for success:

1.     Follow the dress code policy
Whether it’s all white or all blue, make sure you adhere to the policy. You may want to stretch the boundaries of the policy because “everyone else is”, but don’t succumb. Be the ultimate professional and stick to the policy.

2.     Wear patient population appropriate attire
It drives me crazy to see nurses working with adults that wear Sponge Bob Square Pants uniform jackets or Scooby Doo tops. I LOVE Superman and have several t-shirts with the logo. However, I wear them around the house, when taking a walk or when just hanging out with friends. Unless you work with pediatric patients, just don’t do it.  Please.

3.     Be careful of your undergarments
Nurses wear primarily white uniforms. So, wearing undergarments in bold colors such as hot pink and black, just reek of unprofessionalism. Make sure your undergarments are either white or even better, beige.  And please!  No “whale’s tails.” This occurs when you wear a thong, bend over and only the top of the thong is showing. It really does look like a whale’s tail. You will get attention, but not the right kind that will get you the respect you deserve as a nurse.

4.     Minimize accessories
Large jewelry, heavy make-up and bright nail polish can be a distracter to your patients, their families and your colleagues. You want people to look at YOU and listen to what you are saying. Wearing overtly gregarious accessories takes the focus off of you and onto what you are wearing. 

5.     Say no to hoodies
I know that hoodies are great! They’re warm, have pockets, and allow you to promote your favorite sports team or brand of clothing. However, they do not belong at work. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve see great nurses wearing dirty hoodies with holes in them. It looks sloppy and unprofessional.

Before you leave for work, ask yourself this question: "Does what I'm wearing inspire confidence in my patients and my colleagues?" If not, go back and change.

I hope my advice doesn’t make you feel that you can’t wear anything fun at work or that you can’t express your individuality. You still can but you really have to be mindful of your patients and other colleagues. Wear fun socks or bring in a creative water bottle or lunch bag. Remember, your goal is to inspire confidence in them in the hope that they view you as a competent professional nurse.

Thanks for reading and for choosing to become a nurse. I'm cheering for your success!!


If you like this blog post, please share it with your friends. Also, check out the video I did on this topic!

For more great tips, make sure you "like" me on Facebook,"follow" me on Twitter and YouTube and subscribe to my blog. Also, check out my new book on nurse-to-nurse bullying and my new eBook titled, Survive and Thrive: A guide helping new nurses succeed! 

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