By Nico Strydom
“Scrubs” refer to the sanitary garments worn by surgeons, nurses, doctors and other health workers in hospitals.
The Spanish ‘flu in 1918 led to a greater awareness among medical personnel regarding the spread of diseases and they started wearing masks to protect themselves, and later gloves also came into use.
Prior to this, doctors wore ordinary clothes during operations and would sometimes don an apron in an effort to keep their clothes clean. Nurses wore long dresses with white aprons and small caps. Ribbons of different colours were attached to the caps to indicate seniority. Over the years nurses’ garments, like women’s garments in general, also changed repeatedly and the long dresses became shorter to ensure better mobility.
In the 1940s increasing focus was placed on hygiene and the risks of infections and the spreading thereof. Medical personnel started wearing white outfits and antiseptic coats were worn in the operating theatre, among others.
In the following two decades medical personnel’s outfits underwent a metamorphosis.
The bright lights in the operating theatre combined with medical personnel’s stark white outfits resulted in eye stress. This led to green, blue and pink garments, which later became known as “scrubs”. This was due to surgeons donning these garments before “scrubbing” for an operation. Male nursing staff also started wearing a type of scrubs as uniform in the 1970s. Although scrubs were initially only worn by surgeons during operations, they quickly gained popularity with other medical personnel due to their efficacy.
This new apparel did not fit as tightly as previously and was easier to wash. The specific material of which it is manufactured helps to absorb blood and other bodily fluids quicker, while the specific colours also help to lessen the unsightliness of stains. Scrubs have also become more practical to ensure better mobility and a comfortable fit.
Almost all medical personnel who take care of patients wear a kind of protective garment. Scrubs now come in all sizes, a variety of colours and offer many options. Scrubs in different colours are for example worn by personnel in different divisions or according to the positions they hold.
Over the years scrubs have advanced to become protective garments that limit cross-infection to the minimum and are essential to keep medical environments sterile.
Life Threads: https://www.life-threads.com/blogs/news/history-of-medical-scrubs#:~:text=It%20was%20during%20the%20year,the%20risks%20of%20wound%20infections.