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Can a Muslim wear a headscarf and long dress while working as a nurse?

Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Columnist) Educator Columnist Innovator Expert Nurse

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

Dear Nurse Beth,

I wanted to apply for a nursing degree to study at university. I just have one concern, and although it sounds small it is quite a big issue for me, unfortunately. Basically I am a Muslim and a practising one. I wear a headscarf and also a long dress which covers my whole body. Can I not wear such a thing being a nurse? if not, what are the alternatives may I ask? Is there a uniform dress that I could wear instead? Thank you so much for your time and effort!

Dear Concerned about Headscarf,

In this day and age, it should hardly be a real consideration. Talk to the program manager at your school.

There shouldn't be a problem as long as your clothing does not restrict your mobility or pose a risk of infection, or prevent you from doing your job. The school will most likely have a color code which you'll need to follow.

I work with several Muslim women at my facility.They wear the hijab (head and neck covering), and some are quite beautiful. A Peds RN I know wears a long sleeved shirt under her tunic, with matching scrub pants underneath.

The Muslim nurses I know do not wear dresses or skirts, but I think that's their choice. Skirts are allowed, because I know some Pentecostal RNs who rock their Danskos wearing long skirts over leggings :)

I was at NTI convention recently and a very nice nurse recruiter from the Cleveland Clinic in Abu Dhabi gave me a personal handwritten note which I am looking at now.

It says maashalaa :) I'll add good luck!

Best wishes,

Nurse Beth


I work in a large, urban academic medical center, and see quite a few nurses in long dresses and head scarves. It's not impossible -- it's not even uncommon.


Specializes in Neuro, Telemetry. Has 6 years experience.

Where I work, there is a CNA who wears head scarf that also covers her neck, a long sleeve shirt under her scrub top, and a skirt. Not a scrub skirt, usually a matching material to her head scarf that goes to her ankles and then wears long socks with her shoes. It isnt an issue here. I believe that most religious practices are protected by law unless they could interfere with the health and safety of a patient. As long as you can keep your head scarf out of poo, you should be fine. Side note: the girl I work with has pins in her scarf that keep it behind her back so it cant fall in front of her while she works.

Where I am there a numerous women that wear a hijab and then either wear scrubs (with long sleeves under) or more traditional clothes with a nursing length white medical coat.

Edited by sara567

Dear Future Nurse,

Like you, I follow a tradition of wearing a head-covering with similar rules of modesty. You will find that things are not as difficult as you imagine. Make an appointment with the Director of the Nursing Program to discuss the uniform requirements and come up with an acceptable solution.

There are floor-length nursing skirts available, and even scrub tops that are 3/4 sleeve (or as previously mentioned, you can wear long sleeve underneath the regular scrub top). When clinical rotations in the OR came around, special arrangements were made to permit my wearing a skirt. (I brought a clean one wrapped in plastic along with a pair of clean pantyhose and changed there at the hospital.) By starting early and working with your Director and instructors, all attire issues can be resolved.

These days, there are many traditional nurses from diverse backgrounds. What matters more than your attire is your professionalism and skill as a nurse.

Best wishes to you in your future endeavors.

Dear nurse Berth, I was very impressed with the answer you gave on the issue with the head scarf. In fact, am a Ghanaian trained nurse with about twelve years working experience and wishes to work outside my country someday. I always had the perception that, those of you in the outside world will not tolerate the headscarf but your answer has really enlightened me on this issue letting me know that, it is really not a big deal after all provided the person can discharge their duties effectively without any hindrance. You are in deed a good nurse and worth advising people in relation to this noble profession. Have a blessed day.

Nurse Beth, MSN

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

Thank you for your kind words :)

Meriwhen, ASN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Psych ICU, addictions.

Be aware that the rules are different in psych when it comes to the headgear. Your headscarf may end up being used by a patient as a weapon, either against you, towards themselves, or towards someone else. Also, I don't know how much of your face your headscarf will cover, but psych patients tend not to respond very well to a nurse whose face is partially/totally covered, especially those with PTSD.

There's too many safety issues here, and safety trumps all else in psych. So while the school may not have issue with you wearing headscarves, most psych units won't allow a nursing student, let alone a nurse, wear them if they're providing direct patient care.

However, there are head coverings that you CAN use, such as this:


(thanks, Retired APRN!)

They won't cause you injury if they are snatched off, they can't be used as ligatures, and they will allow you to satisfy your religious requirements as well as maintain the safety of the milieu. You could wear a long-necked/long-sleeved shirt under your scrubs to provide neck and arm coverage.

As far as the long dress, I'd suggest wearing scrubs under it so there's no risk of anything getting accidentally exposed...and in case you have to run (trust me on this one). Though a long tunic instead of a full-length dress would offer more mobility and be better for the unit, IMO.

Best of luck with your application.

Edited by Meriwhen
forgot a key word there


Specializes in Family Medicine, Tele/Cardiac, Camp. Has 10 years experience.

I just wanted to add that you may also want to make sure you have a change of clothes with you in case of a blood or other body fluid spill. There was a woman - another student - in one of my clinical groups who wore a head scarf and long dress. She ended up getting a patient's diarrhea on her dress and didn't have a clean one to change into. She ended up going home and the clinical instructor was none to pleased. Not because she was uncomfortable wearing scrub pants or because she was wearing a dress, but that because she didn't have a clean one to change into and therefore had to go home thus missing the rest of the clinical day.


Specializes in TELE, CVU, ICU. Has 10+ years experience.

I work with Muslim women who wear hijab- not a big deal.


Specializes in Cardiac.

Hi all...we'll I'm a Muslim, I cover and I'm an RN on a step-down. I also previously worked as an Advanced PCT (fancy term for an aide who can do blood draws, insert IVs and read monitors)...anyway.

Let me give you my own personal thoughts about this...and if you have any *specific* questions feel free to IM me via AllNurses as it can be difficult at times for those who dont cover or arent Muslim to understand where we are coming from.


My main concern with how I dress at work is *SAFETY* and *CLEANLINESS*...Now, Nursing is a DIRTY profession...certain floors are dirtier than others...if your on a post op floor expect a LOT of bodily fluids...if your on a pulmonary floor or a abd, organ transplant floor...the body fluids are never ending...you get used to it BUT you need to be extra careful with cleanliness and this goes for ALL Nurses...as nothing is worse than "burping" an Ostomy bag and it splashing on you...eww...or from a SAFETY standpoint...like on a Cardiology floor...patients are OK 1 minute...next minute they are in pusless VFIB and you are RUNNING down the unit grabbing stuff as you go to their room and jumping on TOP of them doing chest compressions OR pulling the off whatever they fell onto OR running to grab a crash cart....

so...personally I do NOT wear a scrub skirt. Now...Ive seen online scrub skirts which are "modest"...like ankle length and cut to be good for a decent stride...but I can tell you...when your perched on the edge of a patients bed doing chest compressions you are NOT thinking about if your calf is showing...which in a skirt unless you wear pants under it...your going to have that problem...plus...what about body fluids? So No...I do NOT wear scrub skirts...and unless I moved to an office environment I would not wear them anywhere in an acute care setting...not only would you potentially be MORE exposed but I feel like it would be unsafe...you could trip easier OR get the hem in something nasty or whatever.

What I do wear is a very baggy pair of petite length (cuz im short) scrub pants...and a baggy scrub top usually with a scrub jacket on op which hips around hip length/upper thigh or said scrub top over a long sleeved top. Wheh purchased baggy enough it really doesnt show anything. There are some scrub brands which make fitted scrub outfits like Greys or whatever but I usually buy basic Cherokees or Urbane Scrubs a size big and they are baggy enuf to hide my butt but not too baggy to be unclean or unsafe. This is a HUGE concern...

Now for a scarf...I only wear regular sized stretchy jersey shaylahs...I buy mine from Hijab-Ista...I prefer these are they stay for 12-16 hours without being readjusted, generally dont even need a pin and when I use one I have a big weighted one which doesnt budge an inch and its stretchy so I can easily fit my steth UNDER it at the sides of my face to get to my ears...im on a Cardiac unit so we use our steths a LOT. That nonsense of using a steth OVER your scarf which you see in staged pictures is unsafe...you cant hear faint crackles or murmurs or whatever doing tha...you hear just crunching...also you cant be readjusting your scarf every 2 seconds or have pins falling out OR have it danging...I tuck my ends INTO my scrub top...this way no sundowning elderly patient can grab on and choke me OR someone with a bad attitude grab it. FYI on PSYCH units this is a MAJOR CONCERN! So on those when I had clinicals I wore an al-amira so if it was yanked it would harmlessly pop off...it never happened as I couold pick up on aggressive body language fast but since I dont work psych...I found that jersey shaylahs are the best fit for me. Also again when your on top of a pulseless patient doing chest compressions you can NOT have your scarf falling in your face or falling onto the patient...

Safety is FIRST....

I feel I cover to the best of my abilities to do my job. Some may disagree but they arent Nurses or even Doctors so have no clue as to what my job entails.and patient safety and then my safety is priority....as long as im not buying scrubs which purposely show off my butt and i try to be as modest as I can I feel like im fine.

Outside of work I dress much the same as you...abayaat, jalabeeb...etc.

I hope this helps...


Specializes in Cardiac.

also...Ive seen many Orthodox Jewish women and Christian women who are RNs who wear scrub skirts but they usually wear a mid-calf or just below the knee style with thick tights...I think for them and those skirts can be safe to wear as they dont drag in body fluids or hamper a run or perch on an edge of a bed getting a pt back...its the whole full length ankle length skirt which I think is unsafe. just to clarify

FloridaLpn2015, LPN

Specializes in Psych/Addiction. Has 5 years experience.

This is simply NOT true. I work in psych and I wear a head scarf. As long as it is tucked in and secured you are fine. It does pose a risk, however, an employer cannot say you cannot wear it. At my interview and job, it has never been an issue and I work with mandated individuals. I do however wonder if a correctional nurse is allowed to wear it due to the fact that it is a major secure place but most of all it tells the inmate something about us. A headscarf is just like a belt, or similar, on my thinking...you don't take your belt off, even though it can be used as a weapon...therefore why make me take off my scarf?

Meriwhen, ASN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Psych ICU, addictions.

A headscarf is just like a belt, or similar, on my thinking...you don't take your belt off, even though it can be used as a weapon...therefore why make me take off my scarf?

Ease of access: it's far easier to grab a headscarf off of someone's head than it is to grab a belt out of someone's pants. I've seen it happen. Plus there's a greater risk of injury to the person wearing the headscarf than the belt.

I still stand by my statements though, and feel that the safety risk of wearing traditional scarves/coverings is significant and alternative head coverings should merit serious consideration. If you're able to make wearing a traditional scarf work for you in your work place, good on you! But do be careful.