I am an NP now, So what do I wear?
I have had people tell me often that I have beautiful clothes. Many people have approached me asking where I get my clothes. This is always surprising to hear this since 1. I am in no way, shape or form a fashionista and 2. I had spent most of my adult work life in hospital scrubs.
Scrubs may be the most comfortable uniform known to mankind. They are AMAZING! As you well know, hospital scrubs present to the outside world that you are part of a noble profession, all the while you feel like you are wearing pajamas. In fact, many of my non-nurse friends have “borrowed” my clean, old scrubs to wear as pajamas. Why wouldn’t you want soft, cool, cotton brushing your skin?
My NP wardrobe began innocently. A few weeks before I began clinical rotations I started to search for decent business clothes. I knew I wanted to convey professionalism and since I was not in a hospital setting, I felt I had to hang up the scrubs. Gotta just keep moving forward.
We have all heard the old adage “the clothes make the man”. I do not believe this. However, people in general focus on outward appearance and love to judge “books by the cover”. A study published in 2018 stated 53% of patients responded that physician attire was important to them. Check it out!
If you are a new nurse practitioner, moving jobs, or in a new specialty or practice, patients will search for ANY sign, any glimmer of hope that they made a good decision in seeing you and can trust your judgment. You may have a difficult time communicating this if you have on a dirty skull t-shirt, yoga pants with worn out knees and beat up sneakers. No judgment here.
After setting up a Pinterest board, over 3 years in this game and exhaustive shopping both in store and online I humbly believe I have identified the essential nurse practitioner wardrobe (quasi-vague to allow for readers creativity) for men and women, all budgets, all shapes, and sizes (for those not fortunate to land a job that you can still wear scrubs). So ladies and gentlemen without further ado….
The Vague but Essential Nurse Practitioner Wardrobe
- Decent Lab Coats
Any color that your hospital or practice okays is acceptable. If you work for yourself, do what you like. Most providers working inpatient wear a white lab coat. It is so common, we say that a patient who only has elevated blood pressures when being seen by a provider has
“White coat hypertension”.
It just isn’t some coat, it will be the first thing people will see when you walk into a room. Make sure it is clean and it fits. You do not want it so big you look like a kid playing dress up or so small that you look like “The not so Incredible Hulk.”
Lab coats can really range in price. Walmart carries lab coats for both men and women in different lengths starting at 9 dollars. The most expensive was on the Medelita website, a men’s slim fit lab coat for around 200 dollars medelita.com. Ideally, try to start with 2 lab coats. I have several lab coats. I may or may not have bought another one while doing this research. My favorite is one is both wrinkle and spill resistant, that really is a lifesaver. I think it is from Barco.
2. You gotta wear a top
So we got lab coats figured out, now on to tops. For everyone, never underestimate the power of a tucked in, button-up shirt. They come in an array of fits, colors and you can have them cleaned and pressed at dry cleaners for relatively cheap. You can add a tie or leave the top button open.
Blouses are also great options. I am a fan of butterfly sleeves, modest keyhole, tie or tab collars. They are timeless. Solid or prints, whatever works for you. Try to choose colorful tops and neutral bottoms, it helps for mixing and matching.
Polo shirts are also excellent alternatives. A word of caution though. If you have an ample abdominal area, go for a size up on polos, they sometimes do not tuck well when tight and everyone will see that weird void where your bellybutton is underneath. Unless that is the look you are going for. Like I said, no judgment.
You do not have to break the bank for these tops. Target is great, but you can also catch some deals at Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, J. Crew, Zara, Ann Taylor, or the Banana Republic. Start with 4-6 shirts and add as you go.
Pants, Skirts, and dresses! I will say it once again, well-fitted and clean. Look for a pair of slacks or trousers. Lined dress pants can be pricey and usually require dry cleaning, but are great assets and flatter most body types. To start your bureau, begin with colors like black, navy and gray which are easy to maintain and match with different colored shirts allowing for multiple outfits. Next, classic flat-front chinos and ankle length pants are good for warmer days. If you have belt loops, put a belt on.
Then there are skirts and dresses, I simply advised people to stay away from the constant tug or adjustment. Let’s say a patient collapses during an appointment, would intimate parts of your body be exposed while tending to their emergency? You will remember the patient collapsing, the office staff will remember the full moon you gave. The aim is to be comfortable and professional.
This can be difficult. Finding shoes that are comfortable and stylish while wearing them all day long. The focus is keeping them clean and not falling apart. Make sure you can pull 12 hours of walking and working all day.
Go with the flow
Get a feel of your environment. Causal Fridays are still a thing some places. I wear khakis, boat neck stripe tee and clean converse on those days. I sometimes work with a doctor in our practice that is such a sharp dresser, I tend to dress up when I know we are together. Remember we are ambassadors for our profession. People are watching.