Scrubs are the sanitaryworn by , , and other workers involved in patient care in . Originally designed for use by surgeons and other personnel, who would put them on when sterilizing themselves, or “scrubbing in”, before , they are now worn by many hospital personnel. Their use has been extended outside hospitals as well, to work environments where clothing may come into contact with infectious agents ( , , etc.). Scrubs are designed to be simple (with minimal places for to hide), easy to launder, and cheap to replace if damaged or stained irreparably.
In contrast to the uniforms long required of, did not wear any kind of specialized garments until well into the 20th century.
procedures were conducted in an . The surgeon wore his own clothes, with perhaps a butcher’s apron to protect his clothing from blood stains, and he operated bare-handed with non- instruments and supplies. (Gut and silk were sold as open strands with reusable hand-threaded needles; packing was made of sweepings from the floors of cotton mills.) In contrast to today’s concept of surgery as a profession that emphasizes cleanliness and conscientiousness, up to the early 20th century the mark of a busy and successful surgeon was the profusion of blood and fluids on his clothes.
The importance of dress as a badge of one’s class in society was paramount and the processes behind the transmission of infection were the subject of controversy within the profession.
With the “” of 1918 and the growing medical interest in ‘s theory, some surgeons began wearing cotton gauze masks in surgery; however, this was not to protect the patient from intra-operative , but to protect the surgeon from the patient’s diseases. Around the same time, operating theatre staff began wearing heavy rubber gloves to protect their hands from the solutions used to clean the room and equipment, a practice surgeons grudgingly adopted.
By the 1940s, advances in surgical antisepsis (now called aseptic technique) and the science of wound infection led to the adoption of antiseptic drapes and gowns foruse. Instruments, supplies and dressings were routinely sterilized by exposure to either or .
Originally, operating room attire was white to emphasize cleanliness. However, the combination of bright operating lights and an all-white environment led to eye strain for the surgeon and staff. By the 1950s and 1960s, most hospitals had abandoned white operating room apparel in favor of various shades of green, which provided a high-contrast environment, reduced eye fatigue, and made bright red blood splashes less conspicuous.
By the 1970s, surgical attire had largely reached its modern state—a short-sleeve V-necked shirt and drawstring pants or a short-sleeve calf-length dress, made of green cotton or cotton/blend. Over this was worn a tie-back or bouffant-style cloth cap, a gauze or synthetic textile mask, a cloth or synthetic surgical gown, latex gloves, and supportive closed-toe shoes. This uniform was originally known as “surgical greens” because of its color, but came to be called “scrubs” because it was worn in a “scrubbed” environment.