Neonatal Nurse uniform – Characteristics, appearance and history

Nurses today can be identified by the color of their gowns, but this was not always the case. In the past it was impossible to be able to determine where a nurse belonged by their type of uniform or dress. The traditional uniform that nurses wore from the beginning has gone through multiple transformations up to the present day.

To discover all these changes, we must move to the past, to see how they have been the changes that have had to pass the dress of nurses. Throughout history, a nurse’s uniform consisted of a dress, a cap and an apron.

Those who studied nursing also used to have a nursing pin or wear an apron, which was replaced by a cobbler’s apron, which began to be worn in hospitals and medical schools. These old nursing uniforms are still in use in some parts of the world.

But in both the United States and parts of Western Europe, there have been some changes. Nursing uniforms were really quite different from what they are known for, and they have been changing in appearance from time to time.

Let’s take a look at what changes have occurred in nurses’ uniforms since World War I.

World War I Nursing Uniform

During World War I, the uniform worn by Nurses represented protection against disease and emphasized feminine virtue. Given the number of wounded that the war produced, the nursing uniform was transformed.

The aprons began to disappear and tippets began to be worn over the shoulders and badges, which showed the nurse’s professional status.

Nursing uniform from 1940

World War II also introduced changes in the nurses’ uniform, with the aim of raising awareness of microbiology and infections. It was represented by white slippers, full pantyhose stockings of the same color, blue-gray dress with white collar and sleeve trim and a cap of the same color.

Nursing uniform from 1950

1950 introduced major changes in hats and skirts in nurses’ uniforms. Simple caps began to be worn, some even made of paper. Dresses had shorter skirts and sleeves, falling to knee length. All clothing began to be white, with a few exceptions.

Nursing uniforms from 1960

Open-necked dresses began to be worn, keeping the cap, tippets and white slippers. These uniforms were easier to wear and also easier to launder.

Nursing uniforms from 1970

Here the changes in the nursing uniform were even more drastic. The cap began to be discontinued torally, becoming simply a sheet of paper that was folded. It ceased to be as such an official uniform and became a garment that focused on the comfort of the nurses. The tippets were also eliminated.

Nursing uniform from 1980

It was the 100th anniversary of the origin of the nursing uniform and men were beginning to enter the nursing profession. Both the design and appearance of the uniform were redefined. Plastic aprons began to be used and warm clothing disappeared.

Pants and shirts began to appear as new uniforms in nursing.

Nursing uniforms from 1990

As the uniforms that had been used by nurses up to that time were considered difficult to sterilize, medical uniforms began to be used. Compared to any other uniform that nurses had worn before, they were less expensive, more comfortable and practical.

The current Nursing uniform

Since the 90’s of the last century, medical uniforms began to be used by nurses, their use was generalized, regardless of the health organization where the nurse worked. All nurses today wear scrubs.

These are used in a variety of fabrics, colors and shapes, as well as with different prints. Today it is the nurses who have the opportunity to choose the medical uniform they wish to wear. As long as there are no institutional parameters on the color they should wear, depending on the specialty.

Color coding in Nursing

  • White

It has always been the color associated with the nursing profession and doctors in general, making it one of the first colors to be used. It was originally chosen to represent cleanliness, but that very fact later became a headache for nurses and doctors.

The white uniform generated eye and visual fatigue, causing headaches and it was extremely difficult to remove blood stains from them.

  • Red

Although not a common color for a medical uniform, it is a color that influences how patients respond to the nurse or doctor. In pediatrics it can be very helpful in improving the mood of those around nurses or doctors.

  • Yellow

This color has been proven to increase heart rate, so it is not a very common color to use in hospitals. Although it is also considered a cheerful, energetic color that transmits a positive vibration.

It can be used in hospice or pediatric offices and is generally a color of choice for nurses with an outgoing personality.

  • Green

This is the most common color used today by nursing and medical staff in hospitals. This color is associated with healing, peace and tranquility. It offers visual rest and lowers blood pressure.

In ancient times, this color was used to counteract headaches that were produced by the white color of nursing uniforms.

  • Blue

It is one of the most common colors used by nurses today, as it provides innumerable medical benefits. The blue color spectrum, according to color psychology, is much more reliable.

What is the uniform color used by Neonatal Nurses?

In the United States there is no official codification for the use of Neonatal uniforms or any other nursing specialty. What is standardized is that they must wear medical uniforms. The medical uniform consists of a blouse and long pants that are made of a thin, slippery material.

This material can be cleaned very easily and has the peculiarity of expelling most liquids and contaminants. On the body, these uniforms fit loosely and allow a wide range of movement. They have been designed with healthcare personnel in mind.

Some facilities ask their nurses to wear specific gowns in their nursing uniforms, while others allow them to wear whatever they want. In some NICU services, Neonatal Nurses are asked to wear old pink scrubs.


Nurses in ancient times had to follow strict protocol when it came to wearing a nursing uniform, as for some it demonstrated the seriousness of the nursing profession. Today, it is considered that the uniformity of nurses does not make them less or more professional.

Therefore, rather than uniformity, the focus is on the comfort of the nursing staff in performing their tasks and the emphasis is on the training and skills they possess.


Marlene J. Shockley

My name is Marlene J. Shockley, and I am a Registered Nurse (RN). I have always been interested in helping people and Nursing seemed like the perfect career for me. After completing my Nursing Degree, I worked in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, and home health care. I have also had the opportunity to work as a Travelling Nurse, which has allowed me to see different parts of the country and meet new people. No matter where I am working, I enjoy getting to know my patients and their families and helping them through whatever medical challenges they may be facing.