Is there a history behind the white?

  1. Hi everyone..
    I'm a nursing student who is graduating in 8 months yay! I just recently found out that my school is NO LONGER going to pin graduating nurses in white. The "dean" has decided he wants all graduating nurses to be pinned in our clinical uniforms which are wine colored shirts with our gold patch on the left. I'm actually pretty upset about this, as I think it should be a continuing tradition for graduating nurses to be pinned in white.

    I was curious if anyone knows of the "tradition" or "reasoning" behind nurses wearing white? Is it reason of purity?
    the reason I am asking is because the assistant dean said in order for her to talk to the dean about changing the pinning back to white she would need a letter and signatures which I am planning on getting. I'm just looking for added amuinition for my letter.
    Any help is appreciated

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    About CityKat

    Joined: Apr '06; Posts: 587; Likes: 427
    Registered Nurse
    Specialty: Trauma, Trauma, Trauma


  3. by   MrsMommaRN
    hope this helps:

    [font=impact]the pinning ceremony

    the tradition: dr. susan opas, a professor at ucla's school of nursing in los angeles, provides a rich historical report of the nursing pin and the pinning ceremony in an article from december 1999 rn magazine. dr. opas reports that the earliest badges given to those who tended the sick were presented to members of the knights of the order of the hospital of st. john the baptist, a religious order who tended to the ill and wounded crusaders in the 12th century.
    the tradition of the nursing pin and the ceremonial pinning we know today, actually originated in the 1860's at the nightingale school of nursing at st. thomas hospital in london. having been recently awarded the red cross of st. george for her selfless service to the injured and dying in the crimean war, florence chose to extend this honor to her most outstanding graduate nurses by presenting each of them with a medal for excellence.
    the wolverton royal hospital in england initiated the tradition of presenting all graduates with a badge. the first pin was presented to the graduating class of 1880 at the bellevue hospital of nursing in new york city. the pin presented to graduates was both beautiful and symbolic. it featured a crane in the center for vigilance, encircled with a band of blue for constancy, and an outer band of red for mercy and relief of suffering. dr. opas reports that by 1916 the practice of pinning new nurses was common in schools throughout the united kingdom and north america.
    today: many nursing schools and the public view the pinning ceremony as an outdated ritual. some schools have already abandoned the pinning ceremony and many others are considering doing so.
    the faculty of csu-pueblo continue to view the pinning ceremony as an important rite-of-passage into the profession of nursing.
  4. by   Marie_LPN, RN
    One of the cool things about our ceremony, was going from that fugly clinical outfit to an actual new nurse's uniform. I wouldn't have wanted to wear the same thing i'd been wearing for 2 years to an important day in my life.

    I did, however, wear the same shoes (cleaned and polished of course), since they helped me "walk" that path.
  5. by   llg
    I agree with your Dean on this one. I had to buy a white uniform for my graduation years ago and NEVER WORE IT AGAIN. It was a waste of money. I've never worn white as a nurse. As a staff nurse, I wore scrubs (as do all of the staff nurses in my hospital). In my leadership role, I wear street clothes.

    Many, many nurses don't wear white these days. So, those uniforms are not as representative of our profession as they used to be. Also, many men don't like to wear the white uniforms, and I can't blame them for that.

    By the way, I'm pretty sure nurses started wearing white uniforms so that they could clean out the stains with bleach. Back in the old days, you couldn't get stains out of colored fabric because bleach would discolor the fabric. Nurses wore dark uniforms with white aprons. The white aprons would "catch" the dirt and stains and they could be bleached. Look at the old nursing pictures and that is what you will most often see for a uniform. Personally, I like that look for nurses. My student uniform was like that -- a plain navy blue dress with a white apron that included a bib. I liked how it made me feel like a descendent of those previous generations of nurses.

    But time moves forward, not backwards ... and nursing needs to move forward with it. The Dean is not cancelling the pinning ceremony. You are still honoring that tradition. He's just updating it to better suit our current culture. I hope you can value the traditions retained and not let a few updates ruin what should be a very special day for you.

  6. by   P_RN
    I finished in 1974 and we didn't get pinned. If we wanted a pin or a cap we could go to the Student Union bookstore and buy one. Mine got stolen about 1977.

    I would have LOVED to have a picture of me like the traditional white uniform and cap.
  7. by   TheCommuter
    During nursing school I had to wear a uniform that consisted of white scrub pants and a royal blue scrub top. I absolutely hated having to wear the white pants because they soiled so easily during the normal course of the day. Now that I'm working as a nurse, I virtually never wear whites because they're more of a hindrance than a help.
  8. by   Otessa
    Angel of Mercy????
  9. by   ortess1971
    Does your program have a student nurse organization? I feel like it should be the students decision as to what to wear. Take a vote and majority rules. My school had a pinning ceremony for us and we had to get white uniforms(women also had a choice to wear a white dress-no one did LOL). Before that, people could just wear something nice. In retrospect, I think the white uniforms looked very professional-much more professional than our clinical uniforms, which were a dark green polo shirt with white pants. It's your pinning-why is the Dean making this decision? Just my 2 cents..
  10. by   BonnieSc
    Nurses wore white originally in large part because, when you wear all white, everyone knows you're very clean--no hiding the dirt as you could with colored clothes. It's only fairly recently that this has been abandoned as being impractical, because the image of a nurse all in white meant a lot to so many people--nurses and patients both.

    Earlier in the 20th century--I think until about the 1960s/1970s, depending on the school--student nurses always wore colored uniforms, and looked forward to the day when they could wear white as "graduate" nurses. (Typically they got their caps when they passed "probation"--as well as a different uniform--and then got a velvet ribbon to put a stripe on their cap when they graduated.) Anyway, because graduation used to involve wearing a white uniform for the first time, that's why many schools have a "white" association for pinning/graduation, even if their regular clinical uniform isn't white. Of course, many schools/colleges of all types have girls wear white dresses to their graduations, too.

    It's weird, but somehow the tradition went from ONLY graduates wearing white, to ONLY students wearing white... many hospitals prefer nursing students to wear all white or white pants so they're easily identifiable.
  11. by   Demonsthenes
    In ancient Rome, individuals who were Roman citizens were the only one's who could wear the toga. Also, only those Roman citizens who were of the Roman upper classes could wear white togas.
    Although there may not be any determinative reason for nurses and doctors wearing white, in the ancient world wearing the color white was an indication of one's high class standing.
  12. by   TazziRN
    Our uniform was white dress or white shirt with pants, with maroon sweater vest. When we graduated the nursing class wore white cap and gown while the rest of the school wore the school colors. Then we had our pinning in the same white cap and gown. While it wouldn't matter much to me what was worn, I think the pinning is important because we are being "inducted", if you will, into a very prestigious profession. No, I am not naive. For as much abuse as nurses take, I am very proud of my profession and license.
  13. by   purplemania
    we were pinned in our white uniforms, mostly because we looked nice as a group, I think. Afterwards a lot of us had a bonfire and burned the things!
  14. by   KarryRN
    We were pinned wearing our cap and gown that were in school colors (maroon). We all wore dressy clothes under our cap and gown. I guess all nursing schools do things differently.