I Don’t Want No Scrubs

The jade green scrubs given to operating room employees (surgeons, nurses, house staff, etc) are anything if not uninspiring.  What seems comfortable in the hazy hours of the early morning (we’re talking sometime around 4:45) ends up feeling like a grimy, sweaty encasement by the end of the long, grueling day (anywhere from 12 to 16 hours later).

And while some seem to love it – “It’s like wearing pajamas to work!!!” being a common sentiment – I found myself losing a piece of my identity.

In terms of utility it makes perfect sense.  In the case of emergency, there’s no diverting to the locker room to change into operating room attire; as a result, everything becomes a little more streamlined.  But from a psychosocial point of view, it can start to feel a little like the prescribed outfit in an authoritarian society.  The way one dresses is no longer a means of self-expression when everyone is relegated to these jade colored Mao Suits.  So I asked myself: what can I do to make these scrubs my own?  And with a little imagination and the inspirational words of Project Runway’s Tim Gunn in my head – “Make it work!” I set out to find a few ways to give some individual flare to the humdrum surgical scrub.

A few rolls of the sleeves gave the illusion of a tank top.  Similar folds on each leg yielded an 80’s high-rolled look.  Trading in the ratty gym shoes I’d been wearing around the wards for a more stylish pair made all the difference in the world, but still didn’t quite do the trick.

I just couldn’t get over the fact that I enjoyed and missed dressing up in the mornings and representing myself through my wardrobe.  In the clinical portions of my first two years of med school I’d learned that even within the rather conservative field of medicine, it’s still possible to change things up with regards to what you wear; the key is nuance. As such, I strive to put a little extra thought into it every day, hiding a god amount of personality in the details.

The type of tie (skinny vs traditional), the particular matching or contrasting of colors, and the thoughtful use of accessories (a loud pair of socks with an otherwise dulled down outfit certainly makes a statement) all come together to speak to who I am underneath the short white coat.

And so, I guess I can say that jade isn’t really my color, and that, given the choice, I’d rather not wear pajamas to work.  Aside from that, I’m now more appreciative of any chance I get to wear what I want.  And whether heading to a meeting or just running out to the grocery store, I’m more likely to be dressed to the nines than sporting sweat pants.  After all, I don’t want no scrubs.

Picutre of author

About Justin Fiala, MD Candidate

Justin is currently in his third year of medical school at UIC's College of Medicine, and is hoping to pursue a career in internal medicine. He has a strong interest in addressing the health needs urban communities and is part of the College of Medicine's Urban Medicine program. Aside from academics, Justin enjoys cooking, listening to public radio, and perusing the New York Times website. He is also a trained pianist and self-professed lover of all kinds of music.

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