DANVILLE — Many health care workers wear bright colored scrubs when working in Geisinger Health System hospitals and clinics.
It’s a way to express themselves and brighten up the workplace.
By Jan. 1, all of Geisinger’s registered nurses in the system’s eight hospitals, clinics and nursing home throughout 44 counties will wear the same color scrubs — pewter — with a sewn Geisinger logo and a name tag with “Registered Nurse” spelled out.
Geisinger is changing its uniform policy to ensure patients can identify who the registered nurses and other health care workers are. The system will eventually develop uniform policies for other health care workers, including physicians.
Susan M. Robel, Geisinger’s chief patient experience officer, executive vice president and chief nursing officer, said administrators had looked at a lot of literature about patients and how they identify health care workers.
“The literature says, and we have found from our patients, they don’t know who is coming into their room,” Robel said.
She said the name badges currently identify the employee as an “R.N.” or some other initials signifying their position, but patients don’t always know what they mean.
Robel, who also has responsibilities at Holy Spirit in Camp Hill, said RNs there voted to wear the pewter scrubs before that hospital became affiliated with Geisinger in October. They chose the neutral color to satisfy both male and female nurses. Geisinger chose the same color as what Holy Spirit registered nurses wear — so that the color would be the standard for RNs throughout the health care system.
“When this uniform process is completed, when patients go to their doctor’s office, their RN will look the same,” Robel said.
So registered nurses at the medical center near Danville will look the same as registered nurses in Geisinger clinics and at Geisinger hospitals in Shamokin, Bloomsburg, Wilkes-Barre and Scranton and Geisinger’s Bloomsburg Health Care Center nursing home.
Patients, especially the elderly, who cannot see what’s on the tags will at least be able to see the pewter uniforms and know that is a registered nurse, Robel said.
She said environmental service workers already wear navy blue, so that color won’t be assigned to other employees.
“Other areas will have a choice of color,” she said.
In a notice to employees about the new standards, Robel and Greg Burke, M.D., chief patient experience officer, wrote, in part: “The first impression we give patients and visitors is determined not only by our tone and expertise, but also by our appearance and demeanor.
“Consider the visual effect our appearance conveys to patients and family members, even before we speak. By wearing our ID badges coupled with professional attire, we can enhance the patient experience by adding order to the complexity of the hospital environment, offering a calming effect (and) visually demonstrating our professionalism and pride as Geisinger employees.”
They continued, “Recent studies have shown that patients associate professional attire with honesty, knowledge and high-quality care.”
Geisinger will work with one vendor, a company called Advance, which works with Holy Spirit and other hospitals in Pennsylvania, to size and provide the uniforms to the nurses.
Of the more than 21,000 Geisinger employees, 3,000 to 4,000 are registered nurses, Robel said.
“Because we have so many nurses, thousands of nurses, we had to select a vendor to meet the needs of the nurses,” she said. “The vendor has many different styles and is going to provide discounts for our nurses in the initial onset, and we as an organization will provide some financial support up front.”
Robel said the financial support would help the nurses with the first set of uniforms they purchase, for example, a week’s worth. For additional purchases, they still would have the discounts from the vendor, she added.
She said some nurses still will wear dresses, and those types of uniforms will be available in pewter.
Robel said that the nurses, for the most part, have reacted positively to the change, though she admitted, “Not everyone is happy.”
“Change is difficult overall,” she said. “This has been received very positively, because it’s the right thing for our patients. That’s why nurses go into nursing — for the patients.”
Following the change, administrators will look at the policies for other employees.
“The overall professional appearance of providers, including physicians, is going to be looked at, but there hasn’t been any policy developed,” Robel said.
Even personal greeters will be considered so there is standardization throughout the system, she said.
“This is just the beginning.”