Nurses often work long hours. When the alarm goes off, it can be tempting to linger in bed and then rush out the door at the last minute. You are going to get messy anyway, so sometimes it might not seem worth the extra effort — but it is.

Many people make a judgement based upon their first impression, and first impressions are especially important for nurses. Your patient’s family may not feel confident that you will care competently for their loved one if you appear as if you don’t care for yourself. Most people would be unhappy if their waitress was unkempt or impolite, so a professional who is responsible for a person’s health is often held to an even higher standard.

Being mindful of how you are perceived can pay off since patient satisfaction is often linked with reimbursement. A professional image can increase your patient’s trust in your abilities. You worked hard to become an RN, so show pride for your profession by upholding a favorable appearance and actions to increase your patients’ confidence and your own.

Make a Good First Impression

Patients often arrive anxious and want to feel reassured, not distracted by a sloppy appearance or bad attitude. Your reputation may hinge on that first impression.

Start with good hygiene. It’s hard to educate and reinforce hygiene compliance if you are not practicing it yourself. Cleanliness also assists with infection control. If you don’t practice good hygiene and have body odor, halitosis, or an unsavory, unclean appearance, patients may form an unfavorable opinion of your overall image.

Don’t forget to do the following:

  • Care for your nails. Especially artificial nails, which can harbor bacteria.
  • Keep hair neat and secured so it doesn’t get in the way of patient care.
  • Remember oral hygiene and dental care to increase your reasons to smile.

Take care with your clothing. Nurses have moved away from the standard white uniform and transitioned into scrubs. This attire is functional and practical, but if you don’t acquire the right fit and care for them well, they can spoil your professional image. Make sure your scrubs aren’t too big or small, and layer a t-shirt underneath for the sake of modesty. Replace your scrubs if they become faded, stained or worn out.

Also consider:

  • Know your company’s policy on piercings and tattoos. Are you required to keep them covered? Use good judgement.
  • Use neutral cosmetic shades, and avoid large or loose jewelry.
  • Wear sturdy, supportive footwear. You’ll avoid potential injuries, and your legs and feet will thank you!
  • Limit perfume and cologne.
  • Ensure your name badge is visible for ease of identification.

Communicate professionally. Your credibility as a professional can be enhanced if you extend your communication awareness to include your body language, demeanor and communication style. This can inspire respect from others and establish you as an authority.

Be courteous to others by following these simple guidelines:

  • Be on time and reliable.
  • Introduce yourself to patients, family members and new staff.
  • Treat others with respect and make time to listen.
  • Speak up against unacceptable behaviors such as bullying and incivility.
  • Keep your personal relationships outside of work.

Improve How You Feel about Yourself

Society makes assumptions based on appearances, and nurses are under more scrutiny than most. If you look good, you often feel better about yourself, which can increase confidence and productivity. Remember that you are representing more than yourself — you are also representing the nursing profession as a whole.

The confident image you portray might do more than make you feel better about yourself today; it can be the difference in being considered for the next promotion or opportunity in your nursing career.

Perception Is Reality

Your image as a nurse is important. No matter how knowledgeable you may be, inspiring confidence in your abilities can be challenging if you neglect to take the time to make a good impression. That extra effort in caring for your appearance and attitude can make a big overall difference. Your patients may feel more confident in your skills, and you might too.

Learn more about the Nevada State College online RN to BSN program.


American Nurse Today: What Works: Implementing an Evidence-Based Nursing Dress Code to Enhance Professional Image

Healthcare and Business Technology: Dress Codes for Nurses: Tool to Boost Professionalism

Nurseslabs: Uplifting the Image of Nurses: 6 Ways You Can Help