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Kennedy Krieger institutes standardized uniforms for nurses, other staff members

Monday March 10, 2014
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Patients and visitors at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore can more easily identify nurses and other staff members by the color of their clothing after the nursing department transitioned to new standardized apparel in September.

“It increases the appearance of professionalism among staff and improves the recognition of nurses among patients,” said Robin Campbell, RN, BSN, CRRN, nurse manager at Kennedy Krieger. “It makes it easier for family members to distinguish nurses from nurse technicians and other care providers. The nurses also don’t have to worry about what they are going to wear every day.”

Kennedy Krieger is an interdisciplinary neuro-rehabilitation facility dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with disorders of the brain, spinal cord and musculoskeletal system. Before the new uniform policy, family members and visitors reported having difficulty recognizing their child’s RN, nurse technician or respiratory therapist, institute officials said.

With the new policy, all RN scrubs are navy blue colored, which Campbell said is consistent with what nurses in most other area hospitals wear.

“We found color-coded uniforms an easy form of communication,” Campbell said.

Nurse technicians wear gray uniforms, behavior rehabilitation aides wear burgundy, respiratory therapists have Caribbean blue scrubs, and unit clerks wear purple. All staff also wear name tags.

“We were able to revamp our personal appearance policy because of this new initiative,” said Rachel Stoughton, RN, MSN, PCNS-BC, clinical nurse specialist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. “All of the uniforms also have the hospital logo, along with the job title.”

Campbell said the facility has not done any surveys asking patients or visitors their opinions about the new uniforms but most of the public feedback has been extremely positive.

“We had one patient recently who went out of their way to comment how nice they looked,” she said.

Stoughton said that the nursing staff received an initial stipend to purchase its uniforms.

Stipends varied from $25 to $200 depending on the number of hours staff members work per week. The uniforms cost about $25 each.

Stoughton said staff has transitioned well to the change. Prior to the new policy, staff could wear scrubs of any color, and many nurses and nurse technicians liked to wear bright colored scrubs, sometimes with pictures of cartoon characters, since many of the patients are children.

Some nurses said they initially were skeptical about standardized uniforms, but now believe the change was the right move.

“I thought I would not like wearing the uniforms, but I really enjoy the uniformity of our staff and the fact that they have your title on them,” said Pamela Melvin, RN, BSN, an osteogenesis imperfecta nurse clinician. “This helps the patients know who they are talking to, whether an RN, NT or phlebotomist.”

Dayshift clinical coordinator Crystal Guengerich, RN, BSN, CPN, LMT, MA, said she was initially disappointed at the thought of switching to standardized uniforms, but has come to like the change.

“The uniformity of it does provide a more professional look to the unit, and I believe it makes it easier for patients and families to identify who’s who,” Guengerich said. “Also, it sure makes getting dressed in the morning easier — everything matches.”

Nona Hudson, RN, CPN, a senior staff nurse in the neurobehaviorial unit, said the uniformity gives a more professional appearance and hopes “it makes nursing more visible, which should contribute to a safer environment for our kids.”

Although the new standardized uniform policy is mandatory for nursing staff, Campbell said the facility does allow occasional exceptions at the discretion of the nurse executive and nurse managers.

“We do allow them on Christmas Day to wear Christmas scrubs,” she said.


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