Posted Monday 21 August 2023
Kingston University art and design students have joined forces with the School of Nursing to embark on a project to transform healthcare uniforms and help workers express their personalities.
As part of one of their modules, 35 students who are studying a foundation diploma in art design and media practice were asked to create ten bespoke uniforms over the course of two weeks that reflected the individual personalities of nursing students.
The concept of merging the two disciplines of fashion and nursing together was conceived by final year nursing student Sophie Robbins. "I have always been interested in fashion and for me it was about bringing the creativity and fun that fashion stands for into healthcare," Sophie explained. "I wanted the designs to bring out the personalities of nurses which people don't normally get to see with traditional uniforms."
The tradition of wearing nursing uniforms goes back to the middle of the 19th century when Florence Nightingale introduced them during the Crimean War. Today nurses continue to wear scrubs for sanitary and practical reasons, which leaves little opportunity for creative fashion choices.
"The uniforms created through this project instead provide nurses with a platform to showcase their individuality and self-expression through their attire," Sophie explained.
Second-year nursing student Ruby Partleton, who took part in the project, came to study nursing because of her desire to help people and contribute to the community. She was especially interested in working with young children, so she wanted her uniform to be bright, colourful, and fun for the children she would be looking after.
Ruby's superhero outfit in bright pink with floral embroidery and multiple pockets, turned out to be not only fun but also practical. "We spend so much time in the hospital doing our job that we can sometimes forget about our identity because of the scrubs we're wearing," Ruby explained. "This new uniform allows me to express my personality while still being seen as a nurse."
For nursing associate student Therese Gallop her dark blue uniform incorporates essential pockets and a cape with the phrase ‘I'm just a nurse' embroidered on the inside, which holds personal significance for her. "It reflects what others have often said to me and served as a driving force behind my choice to pursue a nursing career," she said.
"I think it's important to show the diversity of nursing through fashion," Therese added. "Using fashion to communicate how, we as nurses, are all different can help people better understand the diversity, culture, and unique style of nurses."
While working on the brief, fashion students had to conduct thorough research into the history of nursing uniforms as well as experiment with different textiles to find the most practical materials for each uniform. The project not only allowed them to gain hands-on experience, but also exposed them to the pressures of meeting tight deadlines, mirroring the challenges encountered in the fashion industry.
"This project was incredibly valuable for our students," said Rebecca Davies, Head of Department of Foundation & Associate Professor. "They really stepped up and went above and beyond because they knew the work would mean something to the people they were designing it for."