Published: June 25, 2019

Many hospitals require employees to wear specific-colored scrubs.

Sometimes this is to differentiate between departments, so it’s easier to identify physicians from nurses and surgeons. Other times it’s psychological since certain colors elicit certain emotions in people. Whatever the case, your scrubs color choice shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Here’s what the color of your scrubs means and how to choose which is best for you.

 

White

White was the main color physicians, nurses, and surgeons used to wear. The thinking back then was that white represented cleanliness and purity. This largely went out of fashion in the medical world because early practitioners realized white causes a number of issues.

On a patient level, white scrubs literally caused headaches, creating eye strain and visual fatigue. This color is also very difficult to get blood stains out of. Even when sanitizing with bleach, the stain wouldn’t fully go away—it’d just change to brown or green and the scrubs would often have to be thrown out.

So, definitely think twice before going with white scrubs.

 

Purple

Purple can put out mixed feelings, depending on the person.

Some view it as childish or immature, perhaps not taking you seriously as a qualified medical professional if you wear it. Others view it as a strong color, associating it with royalty and empowerment. Regardless, it’s not too hard on the eyes, so there isn’t a health risk to patients by wearing this color. And it’s a fun color, which may be great when working with children.

 

Red

For a lot of patients, red is the worst-colored scrubs you can possibly wear. 

That’s because blood is red and red scrubs may remind patients of blood, something no one wants when they’re sick. However, red can be a great scrub color choice if you’re wearing it during an awareness campaign since you’re trying to teach how to avoid a health issue and red can embody that fear and make the point land harder. 

Otherwise, avoid this scrubs color at all costs.

 

Green

Green is one of the best colors you can choose for your scrubs since it’s associated with peace, healing, and tranquility.

On a scientific level, green has been found to lower a person’s blood pressure when looking at it. One reason that may be is that it’s the opposite of red on the color wheel. Green also makes it easy to hide bright red blood stains, which extends how long you can use the scrubs before a wash. Lastly, green helps ease a surgeon’s eyestrain during surgery so they can focus.

In other words, there are no real downsides to wearing green scrubs.

 

Yellow

There’s a reason why not many healthcare professionals go with yellow scrubs.

That’s because, similar to red, yellow is known to increase people’s heart rates when looking at it, perhaps due to how bold and eye-catching it is. 

On the other hand, yellow can be associated with happiness and positivity (think of the sun). Because of this, yellow scrubs may be a good idea for pediatric offices and hospice care, in an attempt to lift people’s moods.

 

Pink

Unlike red’s ability to evoke strong negative emotions, pink creates a visually soothing experience for the majority of people looking at it. It does this with muted tones that have a more subtle effect on people’s moods than red.

Pink is also the color of bubble gum, which all rational beings have fond memories of, except for bubble gum flavored medicine.

 

Blue

Blue is among the most common choices for scrubs and there are good reasons why.

This color makes people feel relaxed and calm, lowering blood pressure and easing anxiety. It even makes people trust you more. It also helps surgeons focus more easily on their tasks by offsetting the bright color of blood. And if it’s a darker blue, blood doesn’t show as much.

Overall, blue is among the strongest scrubs color choices.

 

Brown

Brown isn’t a very popular scrub color choice because it’s often associated with bodily functions. 

However, the color does give off vibes of warmth, earthy, and non-threatening, which is perhaps why the color’s used by everyone from UPS drivers to military personnel. Some even associate the color with stability and trust. And let’s not forget: Brown is the color of chocolate, a beloved treat by every person with working taste buds. 

So, perhaps it’s time to reconsider brown as a scrubs color.

 

Gray

Though a neutral color, gray (or grey if you’re British) is often associated with depression.

In fact, research suggests depressed people literally see the world in a grayer shade, which is perhaps why people tend to feel sadder when it’s cloudy out and happier when it’s sunny. So, it may be best to avoid gray scrubs, to not risk evoking sadness in patients. 

What’s the best color of scrubs then? Unless your hospital or office requires you to wear a certain color, it ultimately comes down to personal preference. Blue and green are always great choices, though pink and purple may suit certain people more. But as long as you keep cleanliness, personal taste, and your patients’ comfort in mind, you’ll make the right choice. 

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Sources:

WHAT IS THE MEANING BEHIND COLOR-CODED SCRUBS?

USA Today; The definitive Medical Scrubs Color rankings list

PhillyVoice; UNFORM SCRUBS: DO CERTAIN COLOR SCRUBS MEAN CERTAIN THINGS?

Dress A Med; How Does Color Affect Blood Pressure?

University of Southern California; A PRE-DESIGN STUDY OF PATIENT AND MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL ATTITUDES AND REACTIONS TOWARDS THE COLORS OF MEDICAL SCRUBS

The Ohio State University; How depression makes the world seem gray, from the Harvard Mental Health Letter

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