Since about the 6th grade, it’s been cool to hate uniforms. School uniforms, sports uniforms—whatever it was, you were expected to complain about it. I have always loved uniforms. I paid lip service to the whole “uniforms are so lame” thing when I was 15, but I secretly relished every away game and event that required me to wear one.
Fast-forward a decade, and I’m not even going to try to fake it: scrubs are awesome. I think I look like I know what I’m doing, and I don’t have to figure out what to wear in the morning.
Last April I signed the deposit check that officially made me a Hopkins student and then went straight to the bookstore to buy my nursing student uniform. The dark blue scrubs, white lab coat, and polo shirt—all with the Hopkins seal radiating importance from the left shoulder—were stuffed into a bag until I could get home and try them on again at my leisure. Which I did. While turning around to admire my official-looking left shoulder in the mirror.
I know. Huge dork, right here.
The irony is, of course, that no one else in the JHU medical community looks at our trademark dark-blue uniform and thinks “wow, don’t they look professional.” They see our navy scrubs and think “warning: nursing student. Has no idea what’s going on yet.” Which, as it turns out, is a bit of a blessing, when you consider the alternative.
Unfortunately, some of the patients I’ve run into share my initial reaction to my uniform scrubs and lab coat. To the untrained eye, I really do look like I know what’s going on. In my first clinical, I had patients asking me for opinions on a whole host of things. “So what do you think?” asked one woman after giving me a long spiel about the reasons why she had come into the hospital.
I think I need to look up the spellings of the last two things you said you have on your chart, I thought, and then google them. “You know, I’m a new nursing student,” I said, “so I’m really not sure, but I’d love to discuss it with the RN and try to help you figure it out.”
Nice, right? I wish I could say that I had come up with that line on my own, but we’d been prepped with it before they set us loose on the unit.
I’m sure that in another month, the glamour of the uniform will have worn off. I’m already beginning to look at my matching scrubs and think “MRSA” instead of “Professional-looking,” and I’m spending more time stuffing them into the washing machine than I am appreciating the JHU seal. Such is life. But for the month or two before school started, I will confess: I occasionally took the lab coat out of its bag in my closet, just to admire it.