Medical scrubs have come a long way. Today, surgeons and other surgery personnel wear them religiously. Additionally, other patient care provides throughout hospitals and clinics, wear scrubs, such as cheap landau scrubs, as their everyday uniforms. In fact, scrubs have become so prevalent in society, that people use them today for activities ranging from backpacking to exercising. However, what is the scrub’s place in the history of surgical attire?
Before there were operating rooms, there were operating theaters. Yes, that is right-operating theaters. These were huge rooms like today’s auditoriums. Surgeons performed the surgeries on a table, which stood on a stage. The surgeon wore street clothes, with his “uniform” being limited to an apron. It would be an understatement to say that the environment was not hygienic. The surgeon did not sterilize his tools, and his hands were uncovered during the procedure. Speaking of hands, the surgeon also did not wash his hands, prior to performing the operation.
While these conditions may seem primitive, remember that nobody had yet discovered the link between bacteria and disease. People were dying left and right, yet nobody seemed to have a logical explanation. Various scientists had only theories about the link between the microscopic organisms and sickness. However, Louis Pasteur later proved that a connection existed between certain microbes, and the high mortality rates.
A British surgeon named Joseph Lister (for whom Listerine® mouthwash was named) created practical applications of Pasteur’s “germ theory,” to surgery. After a German scientist verified that Lister’s revolutionary processes were indeed effective, surgeons throughout industrialized countries, began to use the latter’s surgical practices.
Within time, Lister’s antiseptic system began to change significantly the way that physicians performed surgeries. In 1918, during the Spanish-flu pandemic, surgeons began to use masks manufactured from cotton gauze. Also, physicians began to wear the first rubber surgical gloves.
However, surgical clothing did not appear until the 20th century. By the 1940s, surgeons sterilized surgical tools, and were wearing surgical gowns and drapes. The first surgical clothing was white. However, this situation changed, as white reflects heat and light rays; the operating room’s lights made white too bright.
As the 20th century progressed, surgical attire did as well. Green surgical clothing had morphed from white to gray, by the 1950s. This color was easier on the eyes of surgical personnel. Then by the 1970s, surgical clothing began to resemble closely the “scrubs” that surgeons wear today. The attire of surgeons would typically include:
• calf-length short-sleeve dress
• closed-toe shoes
• cloth surgical gowns
• cotton v-necked short-sleeve shirts
• drawstring pants
• latex gloves
Within time, the term “Surgical Greens” used to label the attire would evolve into “Scrubs”-referring to the “scrubbing in” surgical atmosphere.
Surgical gear has evolved greatly from a mere apron. Today, scrubs of unending sizes, styles, and colors, are available. However, their goal has remained the same: contributing to a comfortable, hygienic environment. Remember that when you wear scrubs, you are wearing a bit of surgical clothing history!