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Guide To Surgical Nurse Apparel


So what do you actually need for your job working in surgery? Perioperative nursing is a unique field and many of the traditional scrubs and accessories aren’t necessary. Let’s take a look at what will actually benefit your days in the OR and make your days easier and more comfortable.


In surgery, you are required to follow pretty strict clothing policies including scrubs that are laundered at the facility. Even though you won’t need your own scrubs, which is actually a big money saver, you can get clothing underneath that makes your day much more comfortable.

First, I always make sure to wear a tighter fitting undershirt, tank top, or t-shirt, as long as the sleeves aren’t showing. The OR can be much cooler than you’re used to, so having that extra layer really helps.

Second, let’s talk about socks. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. “Who cares what socks I wear?” but when you’ve been on your feet for 12 hours, trust me, good socks make a difference. I personally prefer a wool blend, short sock. Wool is a great temperature regulator and keeps my feet warmer in the cooler temperatures found in surgery. They also last longer and are comfortable. My next choice is cotton blend socks sold in running stores. They will typically be padded on the heels and forefoot and are much softer than just a plain old cotton sock. Also, I always keep an extra pair or two of socks in my locker, in case I forget to bring them! Trust me, the day you wear sandals to work and forget to bring socks, you will be thankful you had an extra pair in your locker!


Third, and one of the most important pieces of clothing, are your shoes. Everyone has their own personal favorites but there are a few key things to look for when shoe shopping for working in surgery. 

Your shoes should be able to be cleaned and wiped. Often you will see people wearing sneakers, but this overall is a bad idea. According to AORN, these are not optimal footwear for the OR. You need a shoe that can be wiped clean and won’t absorb fluids and blood that will eventually make their way to your feet.  It also is a good idea to have a harder shoe material that will protect your toes. (Don’t ask me how I know this…) We are often moving equipment and pushing beds and stretchers around, and keeping the tops of your feet protected is important. Also, for me personally, sneakers aren’t the most comfortable for the type of work we do. Sneakers are meant for more forward motion and are designed for running and walking. Although we do a lot of walking, we are mostly standing more stationery on our feet or just moving within the smaller OR room. I have found that after 8 or 9 hours in sneakers, my feet really start to hurt. I recommend keeping an extra pair of shoes in your locker, just in case you encounter a huge mess and get wet feet or ruined shoes (hello ortho!). 


Depending on your facility, they may or may not permit cloth hats to be worn. If so, there are many options for styles and hair types. Since head coverings are one of the only things that we can choose, you will often see many patterns and colors of hats. It’s fun and sometimes even puts the patients at ease! For example, when working with pediatric clients, our hat is one way we can make them smile or laugh. Imagine a scared 6-year-old about to have surgery, and you come by smiling and wearing their favorite Disney character hat. Or you decide to wear your favorite football team hat and your patient who was at first nervous, sees you and tensions are eased as they begin to talk sports with you! Choose a hat that is comfortable and easily covers all of your hair. Make sure to wash it regularly and have fun with them!

These tips will give you a great start about what to wear for your new surgery career!


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