Uniform Scrubs: Do Certain Color Scrubs Mean Certain Things?

Uniform Scrubs: Do Certain Color Scrubs Mean Certain Things?

By Jenny Teng

Have you ever wondered why there are so many different scrub colors? How do hospital employees choose which color scrubs to wear? Or do hospitals require certain colors? When it comes to uniform scrubs, certain hospitals color code their employees. Others allow their employees to choose whatever colors or eccentric patterns they want to wear.

Why color code? The answer is simple – to differentiate between different departments within the hospital, especially in a large hospital. It is easier for the other doctors, nurses, physicians and so on. It is definitely easier for patients and visitors. It is easier and quicker to notice the color of uniform scrubs than to look for a name tag, especially in a large hospital where not everyone knows everyone else in other departments.

In hospitals that do not require their employees to dress by a color code, it can be fun to wear a color or a pattern you really like, but it becomes confusing because one might confuse a nurse for a resident, for example. Or maybe a patient has no idea who helped him or her, and the only thing you know is “he or she was wearing purple scrubs.”

You typically see surgeons in the green or blue scrubs, and nurses that deal with infants in pink. Of course, this varies from hospital to hospital. Not all hospitals have a color coding system for their uniform scrubs. And those with a system will likely not have the same one as another hospital.

However, there may be a reason why surgeons wear the green or blue scrubs. Uniform scrubs used to be white, representing cleanliness. That changed in the early twentieth century because one doctor believed wearing green is easier on a surgeon’s eyes. Green is the opposite of red – the color of blood. The brain becomes desensitized to the color red if someone stares at it long enough. Looking at something green from time to time can keep the eyes more sensitive to the color red, which would obviously benefit the surgeons and their patients.

Yes, color coding uniform scrubs make it easier in theory, but the downside? You may unfortunately be forced to wear the ugliest shade ever made for scrubs.