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Why do Doctors Wear Scrubs?

by Dr.Sal MD on author

doctor scrubs

Scrubs are the quintessential uniform associated with doctors and allied health professionals. Scrubs most often are comprised of a v-neck short sleeve shirt, loose-fitting straight cut pants held by a draw string, and a bandana styled hat tightened also by a draw string. The most common color is green and they are made of a durable canvas like cloth meant for repeated washes without fraying. While some uniforms are ceremonial (think Buckingham palace guard) or for identification (think Bishop), medical scrubs are meant to be functional like a soldier's. Scrubs are loose fitting to be very comfortable, long-lasting, wrinkle resistant, tear resistant, and spatter absorbent. They are actually some of my favorite comfort clothes to wear and I would wear them publicly if it wouldn't turn heads.

Why are scrubs green?

The first scrubs in the old days were actually white to match people's psychological color concept of cleanliness during the germ theory era but were superseded by green or blue for surgeons which reduced the visibility of blood spatter to patients without completely hiding them from the wearer. White lab coats and white nurses uniforms have stuck with us for use outside of the operating room where blood and other bodily fluid spatter and is less prone.

All scrubs of course are not green. There are blue, pink, black e.t.c. But traditionally, green is the dominant choice. Some hospitals also use color codes via their scrubs to distinguish between specialties e.g. at one hospital I served at, general surgeons wore green while obstetricians and gynecologists wore blue.

The term "scrubs" probably comes from the fact that surgeons put these clothes on just before "scrubbing" down as in the picture above before undertaking any surgery.

Where do Doctors get Scrubs from?

At every hospital I've worked in scrubs were provided by the institution free of charge as consumable work gear. We collect them from a hospital dispensary then recycle them in bins after work which are taken after hours to an industrial Laundromat for wash, sterilization, pressing, and folding - often by workers who also wear scrubs - before being sent out for their next cycle. The garments are also inspected each revolution and those past their usefulness pulled from circulation and discarded.

That being said, if you're looking for a pair for your next Halloween party, I've seen them offered by Walmart in the uniform clothing section:)

 


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