The StN Project · The Wider World of Nursing

#WhatNursesWear: should what we wear define us as nurses?

This weekend, I was shocked to learn about the Guinness World Records’ decision to not recognise nurse Jessica Anderson’s achievement of beating the current world record of fastest marathon time for a woman wearing a nurse’s uniform. Jessica (@Janderzzz) completed the marathon in three hours, eight minutes and 32 seconds, beating the current record by 22 seconds. So why was this outstanding achievement not recognised? 

Despite completing the marathon in her actual nursing uniform – scrubs, which many nurses across the globe wear in their role as a nurse – this did not meet Guinness World Records’ inclusion criteria for the record. Their response to Jessica when she informed them she was taking part in the marathon and would be wearing her nursing uniform was: “For the purposes of this record, the nurse’s uniform must include: a blue or white nurse dress, a white pinafore apron, a traditional white nurse’s cap. Tights are optional.” 

Well, to me this sounds like an archaic and frankly sexist view of a nurse. Also, the inclusion criteria seem to describe a nursing “costume”, not a nursing “uniform”, which is after all the award title. Their view of nursing does not reflect the role of the modern nurse. 

In response, the Student Nurse Project started an online Twitter campaign #WhatNursesWear, calling for the nursing community to share pictures of what they wear to carry out their role as a nurse. The aim: to show solidarity with Jessica, to urge Guinness World Records to rethink their decision not to recognise her achievement and review their inclusion criteria, and to challenge archaic and sexist views held about what a modern nurse looks like. 

We were overwhelmed by the response to the campaign. Twitter was flooded with images of the nursing community, highlighting what they wear to carry out their daily nursing roles. The campaign showcased the nursing community at its finest; coming together and uniting with one voice.  

Subsequently, in the late hours of Saturday, Guinness World Records released the following statement: 

Guinness World Records’ statement 

While this is encouraging, we hope that Guinness World Records review more than just the “record title”. We urge them to work with the nursing community in their review to establish what it is a modern nurse looks like. 

And that is the purpose of this Tweetchat… 

The discussion over the past weekend has stimulated much discussion about nursing uniforms and public perceptions of nursing. Does the public still view nurses through the lens of the Guinness World Records outdated criteria? How can we change this, as it does not reflect modern nurses, or do these views need to be changed? Does what we wear as nurses matter to the public and does it matter to us a profession? 

Ultimately, should what we wear define us as nurses? 

Does wearing a uniform give us a sense of professional identity? Are there roles where wearing a uniform is not appropriate, and if so, does this hinder their sense of professional identity? Are there times when a uniform is required for moving and handling and infection control purposes? 

Three of the four UK countries, Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland, have a national gender-neutral nursing uniform. At the Royal College of Nursing Congress this year the topic of a national nursing uniform in England will be debated. Can having a gender-neutral uniform help to challenge the archaic, sexist view of nursing?  

We look forward to hearing your opinions on this matter and hope you continue to share your pictures online showcasing #WhatNursesWear. 

If you wish to contribute to Jessica Anderson’s London Marathon Just Giving page where she is raising money for Barts Charity, you can do so at the link below:

Written by Craig Davidson, third year Adult Nursing Student at Glasgow Caledonian University (@CraigDavidson85 on Twitter)

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