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Should care staff wear uniforms in care homes?

Traditionally, nursing and care staff have always worn uniforms, which have been an extension of those worn in the wards.

Historically, it made sense to dress in a similar way as professional colleagues who worked in a different setting, but now some workplaces, including care homes, are rethinking whether it is necessary or even desirable for all of their staff to wear a uniform.

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of uniforms in nursing homes?

Easily recognisable

The primary reason many give for liking a uniform on staff is the ability to easily identify a member of staff on sight. This can be very important for elderly residents whose memory is beginning to make it difficult to remember a lot of people. A uniform shows at a glance that someone is staff, and adding a name badge means that if a resident can no longer recall names easily they can often read a badge, allowing for a more personal relationship.

Hygiene

In a nursing home hygiene is an important consideration. Especially in homes that provide intimate care, medical and nursing care many staff would prefer not to wear their own clothes. Disposable aprons and gloves prevent infections and protect everyone, but there can still be a certain amount of mess. A uniform can be popped easily in the wash, often at a higher temperature than someone?s own clothes.

Professional look

As well as being easily identifiable in an emergency, a member of staff in a uniform can come across as more professional. They give nurses and carers an air of authority, which can be reassuring to residents and relatives alike, and often find that with a uniform comes respect. This can be especially helpful and calming when inevitable difficult moments and decisions come along.

Boundaries

Opponents of the uniform point out that they can create an emotional barrier between people, creating a hierarchy that can ultimately work against a client?s best needs. Smaller homes and units in particular are finding that staff in their own clothes create a more homely, intimate setting which can aid in care or recovery, depending on the needs of the client. A relaxed atmosphere can make the difference in how happy a resident or client is in the setting, and allowing staff to wear their own clothes can aid in this. On trips out of the home a resident may also feel more comfortable being accompanied by a non uniformed staff member, making the outing feel more like a treat with a friend and not drawing unwelcome attention to the fact that they need a companion with them.

Hygiene again

In some locations it can be hard to provide staff with adequate uniforms for the washing/wearing/drying process, especially if there are busier and slower weeks shift-wise. Unfortunately this may mean that uniforms don?t get washed as often as they should be. Wearing your own clothes allows staff to wash as often as they feel necessary.

Comfort

Happy staff are productive staff. Uniforms don?t allow staff to show very much of their personality at work, and while that may be desirable in some units, in others it can be detrimental to staff/patient relations. Uniforms can also be quite restrictive in terms of temperature control, depending on the uniform. Popping a cardigan on and off isn?t quite as convenient as being able to layer up or down as the environment demands.

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