Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Nurses' Whites.

I've always been a little obsessed with our culture's obsession with nurses. Those caring, maternal figures, all dressed in their white uniforms, are ubiquitous pop symbols. It seems that their capacity for good is always matched with a certain propensity for bad behavior. We've all got mommy issues, I suppose.

There's a few new nurse centered shows popping up on network teevee these days (the best of which is definitely Eddie Falco's caregiver-and-taker turn as Nurse Jackie) and it got me thinking. Why white, nurses?

My obvious guess would be that it exhibits cleanliness and sterility, but it turns out that white was the color of choice for the medical profession before the current scientific evidence of germs was even in existence. Nursing as a profession came out of the practice of nuns caring for the sick. Nuns dress their virginal selves in innocent white, which the nurses adopted. The other founding reason for the whites is that they were bleachable. Stain removal of bodily fluids is a bitch, so the best way to get the guts out (sorry folks, it's true) is to bleach everything back to pristine white. Color fades, but white can be soaked in Clorox and made to look like that gunshot gusher in the ER was never wheeled through the halls on your rotation. That's why the whites. Now go watch Nurse Jackie.

All the photos accompanying this post are from The Center For Nursing History's photostream on Flickr. It is a pleasure to browse.

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