After a hotly contested election, nurses at the city’s biggest hospital are showing up to work in a new uniform—though some aren’t happy with the color.
According to new hospital rules that kicked in last Monday, all of the 2,000-plus nurses at Yale-New Haven Hospital are now required to wear standardized scrubs to work, instead of choosing their own colors and suppliers. The color of their uniform was decided after a hospital election, where the nurses were asked to chose between three shades of blue.
Alefteria Manchisi and Anna Norko (pictured above, left to right) said they both voted for the winner—royal blue. They donned that color Tuesday, as they lined up for a quick lunch from Liu’s Lunch, a Chinese food cart on Cedar Street.
The two nurses both work with children in the pediatrics unit. Norko said she used to wear “fun” scrubs, bearing characters like SpongeBob SquarePants. Now the duo has shifted to solid colors, as per the new regulations. They both adopted the new dress code in December, before it became mandatory last week.
They said given that they have to wear a uniform, the royal blue is a good look.
Others disagreed. In an election last year, workers were asked to chose between three shades of blue: royal blue, navy blue and ceil blue, which is the most common color for hospital scrubs.
The winner, royal blue (pictured), happens to be the hospital’s official color.
The results left some suspicious about the final choice. Several hospital workers said they had the sense that ceil blue had been more popular, but that the hospital’s official color was chosen instead.
“Coincidence?” asked one male nurse, who was picking up lunch at the food carts. He said he and all his coworkers preferred ceil blue.
“It’s no coincidence that it’s the Yale color, not the one everybody wanted,” he concluded. He said he didn’t participate in the vote, because he thought it would be rigged. He and others said they were never informed of the final vote tally, which added to their suspicion.
Hospital spokesman Vin Petrini said the choice came about through a democratic process that took place over the past 18 months.
“It was completely driven by the nursing community,” he said. “This was not something that was brought from the top down.”
The hospital set up a steering committee, comprised only of nurses, to determine what the new uniforms would be. That committee chose the three shades of blue.
The election took place in May 2009, Petrini said. A total of 2,130 nurses were eligible to vote. Petrini said he didn’t know what the voter turnout was. He did give figures for the final tally.
According to results he gave, royal blue squeaked out a win by only 5 points:
Ceil Blue 29 percent
Navy Blue 33 percent
Royal Blue 38 percent
Petrini said he didn’t know whether those results were ever publicly announced, but the final winner was. After royal blue was chosen, he said, the hospital did a lot of outreach on the topic, including a series of events where nurses could try on the new uniforms.
Nurses are now given $100 per year to pay for the new uniforms, which all must all be bought through the same supplier.
The uniforms came in response to patient feedback, and are standard practice in other hospitals, Petrini said. Previously, nurses could wear whatever color and pattern of scrubs they wished.
“There was great variability in terms of the look of nurses and it confused our patients,” Petrini said. As a patient, he said, “you have a number of people coming into the room every day. This is an opportunity for [patients] to know who their caregivers are.”
All hospital workers follow a dress code, Petrini said. Nurses’ uniforms are the only ones that recently changed.
The new uniforms serve to “elevate the visibility and re-enforce the critical importance of the role of the nurse at Yale-New Haven,” Petrini said. “They deserve that recognition. They work awful hard.”
Lynn Maccubbin, who’s been a nurse at YNHH for 28 years, agreed. She was sitting on a bench outside the hospital during her lunch break Monday.
“I think the concept of having us wear the same color, from a patient perspective, is a pretty important concept,” she said. While she personally voted for navy blue, she said she thought the final choice was fair.
Nearby, on another bench, a 20-year veteran nurse named Mark grabbed lunch before a 3 p.m. shift in the Intensive Care Unit. He said he had voted for ceil blue, but he wasn’t upset.
He said he’d heard conspiracy theories about a fixed vote, too, but “it doesn’t matter if it’s fixed. It’s not like you’re voting for the president.”
“It doesn’t make any difference,” he opined. “It’s the job you do, it’s not what you wear.”
On another bench, a black nurse, who declined to give his name, said the color of his uniform doesn’t fix a bigger problem. He said in his six years at the hospital, patients often mistake him for a transport worker or aide because of the color of his skin. One patient asked him for identification when he entered the room to give care, he said.
“It doesn’t matter what color you’re wearing,” he said, “all they see is brown.”