A nursing uniform

In historical and symbolic aspect it is a dress consisting of a cap, an apron (usually made from grey linen or white crossed apron called bavette, prophylactic shoes, and a cloak. Its look is strongly related with a feminine dress in a given time or with a religious habit. One can find a note from early Christian times in literature – that diaconesses who cared for the people “started wearing identical dresses and caps”. Types of uniforms have changed in time, however they have always reflected fashion trends.

There is a particular description of a nursing uniform from the beginning of 17th century. The Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul wore Grey dresses with wide sleeves, head covered with white scarf. Such a dress referred to current clothes of poor French women living in Paris suburbia (A. Maksymowicz, 1977).

Obligatory uniform for students of the Nursing School for Protestant Diakonesses was introduced by pastor Teodor Fliedner in Kaiserwerth on Rhen in 1836 (detailed description is not available). In the United States nursing uniform, designed by Euphenia von Rensselear in 1876 in the Bellevue Hospital, became obligatory in the last quarter of 19th century. A nursing uniform, similar to the American one, emerged in Poland at the beginning of 20th century. It consisted of a cotton dress with long sleeves (coloured, sometimes striped or checkered), with stiff collar and cuffs. To work nurses wore a bavette apron, a cap, low-heeled shoes, and stockings in the same colour as the shoes. A few schools introduced individually designed uniforms, for example the PRC School for Nurses in Poznań (1921), the Warsaw Nursing School (1923), the University School for Nurses and Hygienists in Cracow (1925). Confirmation of such an individualization can be found in correspondence of Maria Epstein to Maria Wiszniewska from London in 1925, with projects of uniforms for teachers and students of the Cracow school (Bożena Weber, ed., Wierna miłości. Cracow 2008, 111 p., by courtesy of the Dominicanes Sisters Archive).

  • February 21st, 1935 – the Act on Nursing record: “Minister determines designs of nursing uniforms in the Regulation”
  • 1971 — Ministry of Health and Social Care Regulation on nursing uniform
  • 1990–1995 — uniforms displaced by protective clothing (according to Work Safety and Hygiene Regulations); revolutionary changes in nursing clothing at the end of 20th century; two-piece dresses and suits at work accepted.

Changes in nursing clothing were determined by: experiences, functional improvements, epidemiological knowledge, women fashion. Collars, length, and sleeves were modified to decrease ground soil, facilitating hand washing (T. Widomska-Czekajska, J. Górajek-Jóźwik, ed., Przewodnik encyklopedyczny dla pielęgniarek. Warsaw: PZWL 1996, 440 p.). A second-hand clock and scissors with rounded endings kept in a pocket became an obligatory element of uniform. During wars Red Cross symbols were attached to uniforms (or often in place of uniforms). Stefania Wołynka emphasized the need of prophylactic shoes and clocks fastened to uniforms. She warned against wearing jewellery at work (S. Wołynka, Pielęgniarstwo ogólne. Warsaw: PZWL, 1993).

Formal requirements for nursing uniform were included in the Ministry for Health and Social Care Regulation, and in the first Act on Nursing on February 21st, 1935 (Dz. U. 1935 No 27 pos. 199 art. 18 point 11). In 1961 the Ministry for Health and Social Care published Hospital Regulations. Including statements concerning uniforms for nurses and midwives. The Ministry for Health and Social Care Regulation on March 31st 1977 lists a nursing uniform elements: a cap, a dress, a two-piece clothing, a bavette apron, a white apron, prophylactic shoes, textile shoes, a cloak.

The uniform meaning

  • Symbolic – a symbol of poverty, dedication to God and neighbours’ service

  • Practical - protection against infection and soil

  • Aesthetical particular emphasis on clothing cleanliness

Elaboration: Krystyna Wolska-Lipiec

More: Gallery of nursing uniforms


Normal 0 21 false false false PL X-NONE X-NONE Dokładny opis stroju pielęgniarskiego pochodzi  z początku XVII wieku.  Siostry szarytki – opiekunki chorych ze świeckiego Zgromadzenia Sióstr Miłosierdzia, założonego przez Wincentego à Paulo w 1633 roku – nosiły suknie koloru szarego z szerokimi rękawami, głowy okrywały białymi chustami. Strój ten nawiązywał do aktualnego ubioru ubogich kobiet francuskich z okolic Paryża.