What’s the Scoop on Scrub Colors?

Written by Rose Torrento on Thursday, May 11, 2023 Posted in On the Job


When it comes to travel nursing, there’s no telling what your next assignment might bring. Every facility is different, and every organization operates a little differently than the last — right down to dress code requirements.

The seemingly mundane choice of scrub colors might have a larger meaning than you realize, depending on where you work. At some facilities, scrub colors can denote different professions and specialties or even serve as a signal of authority.

The history behind colored scrubs

While there’s a rainbow of scrub colors to choose from these days, historically, nurses wore white, which evoked a sense of cleanliness and professionalism. Unfortunately, it’s tough to remove stains from white scrubs, so white fell out of fashion. In its place, blue and green rose to prominence — largely because these colors neutralize the color of blood and other stains.

Blue and green scrubs have become the standard scrub colors because they also provide a healthy contrast to other colors in hospitals. They can keep eyes from becoming fatigued, improving the accuracy and quality of vision throughout long shifts where attentiveness is key. Blue and green even promote a sense of calm and well-being.

Other colors eventually entered the fold, primarily as a way to delineate different disciplines, like doctors vs. nurses. Colors may also show ranks, such as a full-fledged physician vs. a medical student. They can even separate employees by department, like pediatric vs. cardiac.

Today, scrub color practices differ across facilities. In a typical hospital, doctors wear dark blue, nurses wear light blue, and surgeons wear green due to the practicality of those colors.


Does color matter?

The short answer is, it depends. There’s a reason green and blue are so popular, but you may have more freedom depending on where you work. Scrub colors are facility dependent. Green might mean a surgeon at one hospital and an oncology nurse at another. At some facilities, colors can even vary within each department to denote rank. Aside from established rules, there may be unwritten rules you have to observe or ask about. It’s best to get scrub color information ahead of time before you start your assignment.

How to choose the right scrubs

Because every facility has different practices and rules, it’s a good idea to pay attention to any dress code. Read the dress code for each facility and ask questions if you’re unsure about acceptable scrub colors — this way, you won’t get caught standing out or looking like part of the wrong department.

Many travel nurses keep a variety of scrub colors in their closets. This ensures you’re prepared for different workplaces regardless of the written (or unwritten) dress code. Plus, if allowed, you’ll be able to pick scrubs to fit your mood or personality. Wearing colors you like and feel good in is a great way to express yourself and be more confident on the job. Just make sure there aren’t any hidden meanings behind the scrubs you choose for the day.

Not sure what the guidelines or requirements are for scrub colors at your upcoming assignment? Reach out to your Health Providers Choice recruiter for more information. Contact us online or call us today at 888-299-9800 to learn more, and we’ll make sure you’re dressed for success right from the start of your assignment.

About the Author

Rose Torrento

Rosemarie Torrento has worked in health care for more than 26 years, beginning as a registered nurse in 1988. Early in her nursing career, Torrento worked as a freelance contract nurse before accepting a position in nursing administration. During her 17-year tenure in that role, she oversaw nursing employment and travel nurse contracting at a Level 1 Trauma Hospital in Michigan. Understanding the challenges travel nurses faced, Torrento founded Health Providers Choice Inc. (HPC) in 2003. Through Torrento’s extensive experience and her role as President and CEO, HPC provides travel placement of registered nurses and allied health professionals to hospital systems nationally.