Thursday, August 13, 2015

Throwback to 1963: School of Nursing tests out new uniforms!

Being as it is #ThrowbackThursday and I'm deep in preparations for the Fall 2015 exhibit on the School of Nursing, I thought I would throw it back to 1963 and this special article in the April 1963 issue of University of Oregon Medical School's "What's Going On":
Original caption: "Researchers without a grant are (L. to R.): Senior Penny Kortge and Juniors Sandra Forrest and Patricia Reith. Penny and Sandra are testing two new nursing uniforms under consideration. Patricia is wearing the present style, copied in a drip dry fabric."
New student uniforms testing! You might be thinking this move is not newsworthy, but you would be WRONG, dear reader. Previous to the new drip-dry and wash and wear uniforms of the 1960s, nursing student uniforms required a great deal of care and preparation, both for the student and for the school. Through the 1950s, nursing students turned their uniforms in to the laundry service on Marquam Hill for proper washing and starching. Many of our alums mention the discomfort associate with the heavy starching of the old uniforms, including the unpleasant effects of the highly starched collar on a sunburned neck after a summer's day off swimming!

As you can imagine, any effort to modernize, streamline, and add comfort to the student uniform was big news for SON students. The "What's Going On" article highlights the intense testing and consideration of the new uniform process (a student uniform committee was involved). It also features the kind of winking, "Mad Men" sexism that pervaded gendered attitudes about the nursing profession in the mid-twentieth century (and beyond...). 

While updating nursing uniforms to accommodate the comfort of the wearer, rather than the starchy perceptions of the public, was certainly a welcome development, one can't help but be struck by the article's joking implication that this is the School of Nursing's version of research. 

I've transcribed the short article text so that you, dear reader, may get the full throwback article experience (including that pesky benevolent sexism):
"Smart new drip dry uniforms are on the docket for University of Oregon Nursing students, but don't discard your tattered old starch and iron model yet, ladies.
Nurses are not impulse buyers, at least where uniforms are involved. After eliminating all but three new stules of the dozens considered, the nursing faculty and student uniform committee are testing the new dresses under "rigidly controlled laboratory conditions," namely on the agile backs of the girls who will be wearing them.
The testers, one short, one medium, one tall, are the prettiest guinea pigs ever to take part in scientific investigation.
They will wear the dacron and cotton drip dries in "Pinfeather," a muted shade of beige-gray, for four weeks. Each student is keeping a diary on the wearability,washability and appearance of the new garb. Comments, good and bad, will be carefully recorded along with the models' findings. 
After the initial trial run through classrooms, wards, dormitories and laundromats, five other girls from various classes will take over the testing for another four weeks on five different models. When all the reports are evaluated, the new uniforms and their accompanying aprons will be ordered. 
Until then, be patient girls. You should have your handsome new dresses sometime next year."
...In conclusion, let's hear it for contemporary nursing researchers, advanced practice nursing, and gender-neutral scrubs!
Behold! The cover of the Summer 2015 "School of Nursing Connections" newsletter, featuring contemporary nursing instruction, scrubs, and a simulation lab "patient" at bottom left!

2 comments:

Christi said...

Thanks for the shout out for the OHSU SON Newsletter!

Meg said...

Christi, thanks to the SON Newsletter for providing a great, contemproary antidote to that throwback sexism!