"Patients want pretty, skirt-clad nurses!"
October 4, 2005 -- Today the Hindustan Times (India) site posted a short item reporting that a hospital in Firule, Croatia had ordered its nurses to "go back to wearing skirts instead of trousers after complaints from patients." In the item, based on an Ananova piece, the hospital director was quoted as noting that the skirts' length, "be they mini skirts or otherwise," is up to the nurses. The Hindustan Times item jacked up the relatively neutral Ananova piece with suggestions that "pretty nurses" actually do "bring a cheer to even the most woefully ill patients."
The Ananova item, "Nurses ordered to wear skirts," reports that the hospital's patients had complained that the nurses with trousers looked "untidy and unprofessional." Ananova quotes hospital director Dujomir Marasovic as having told local media that "[w]e want to put everything in order here at the hospital. We want all nurses to wear the same clothes and we have imposed a rule which says they should wear skirts. The length of those skirts, be they mini skirts or otherwise, is up to the nurses." The Hindustan Times, apparently taking the story from "Asian News International" in London, adds this lead paragraph: "It has long been suspected that pretty nurses doing their 'nightingale' rounds in their freshly-starched skirts, more often than not, bring a cheer to even the most woefully-ill patients, and now it seems that believers in this theory were right all along, with a Croatian hospital ordering its nurses to dump their trousers in favour of skirts." And this headline: "Patients want pretty, skirt-clad nurses!"
Well, maybe the Hindustan Times is just extending the fun inherent in the original piece, and does not really think there is an association between nursing pulchritude and patient outcomes. Or maybe not. In any case, there is no mention in either piece of whether male nurses or other hospital workers were also asked to wear skirts because their trousers looked "untidy and unprofessional." Also unexplored is the application of the new rule to female physicians. And was the hospital director's comment about mini skirts simply his reassurance that the nurses still enjoy great discretion in their attire, or a winking suggestion that he would not mind a bit if the nurses satisfied their male patient audience with some skin?
While nurses may differ on the best way to achieve a professional look, based on this account it seems unlikely that the hospital policy described here was intended to advance the quality of care or the professional standing of nursing. Its effect, in combination with the hospital director's comments and the chortling press coverage the policy has attracted, would seem to be to present nurses as superficial female sexual objects, rather than serious professionals of either gender.