Travel Nurse Dress Code: What Does a Nurse Wear on Assignment?

Nurse uniforms are more than just clothing — they are a symbol of care, dedication, and hygiene. But have you ever wondered how the dress code for nurses has evolved over the years? From Florence Nightingale’s iconic white dress and cap to today’s modern scrubs, the evolution is fascinating.

Florence Nightingale, the world’s first professional nurse, revolutionized the nursing profession, emphasizing the importance of a standardized dress code that protected nurses and their patients from illness. Today, nursing attire has come a long way, combining functionality with comfort to meet the demands of modern healthcare.

In this article, we’ll explore the current nurse dress code standards, with a particular focus on travel nurses. Whether you’re a nursing student or a seasoned nurse about to embark on your next travel assignment, understanding what to wear and why it matters is crucial. So, what do nurses wear on assignment? Keep reading; we’ve got you covered!

What Do Nurses Wear to Work?

Like many other clinical professionals, nurses typically wear sanitary clothing, known as scrubs, designed to provide comfort, mobility, and hygienic protection. However, the specific dress code can vary depending on the type of medical facility you work at and its requirements.

Scrubs are almost universally mandatory in hospitals. These institutions often have a strict hospital dress code for nurses to maintain a professional appearance and guarantee the safety and hygiene of both patients and staff. Smaller clinics or private practices, on the other hand, may have more relaxed guidelines and may allow for variations in uniform styles or colors.

Travel nurses, who work in different healthcare settings, must be particularly adaptable to these varying dress codes. While the standard nursing attire is almost always scrubs, as a travel nurse, you might encounter differences in uniform policies. For example, the nurse practitioner dress code won’t necessarily be the same as the dress code for a nursing assistant or an RN. Different roles may have specific uniform requirements that reflect their responsibilities and settings.

However, despite internal variations, there are elements of the nurse dress code that remain commonplace across most healthcare environments:

  • Clean scrubs
  • Comfortable, non-slip shoes
  • ID badge
  • Minimal jewelry
  • Hair tied back

Why is Travel Nursing Attire Important?

As a current or future travel nurse, you’ll have to spend a lot of time in your uniform, so it’s important to know why maintaining your professional nurse attire while on assignment is important (and usually mandatory).

Professionalism and Trust

Standardized, professional attire inspires trust and confidence among patients. Nurses wearing clean, well-maintained uniforms reassure patients and their families that they’re receiving care from competent and reliable professionals. This is particularly important for travel nurses who frequently move between different facilities; maintaining a consistent professional appearance helps to establish rapport and trust quickly in new environments.

Hygiene and Safety

The main function of nurse uniforms is to promote hygiene and safety. Scrubs are designed to be easily cleaned and disinfected, which is vital for preventing the spread of infections. Travel nurses, who may work in many different hospitals or clinics with differing cleanliness standards, must rely on their uniforms to protect themselves and their patients from cross-contamination.

Identification and Role Clarity

Uniforms can help quickly identify healthcare professionals and, in some facilities, distinguish their specific roles or rank. Different colors or styles of scrubs can indicate different departments or specialties. For travel nurses, uniforms and color systems can be a helpful tool for integrating into existing teams and ensuring they’re easily recognizable by coworkers and patients.

Convenience and Comfort

Nurses often work long, grueling shifts that require clothing designed for comfort and practicality. Scrubs are made from materials that allow mobility and are durable enough to withstand almost anything the day throws at you. For nurses who are always on the go, scrubs are incredibly convenient because they’re lightweight and easy to maintain.

Common Travel Nurse Dress Code Requirements


The great thing about the evolution of the nurse dress code from the white dress and apron to scrubs is that nowadays, scrubs can be both functional and stylish. Whatever style of scrubs you feel most comfortable with (and that adheres to the hospital’s dress code for nurses), make sure to pack several sets. Some hospitals have strict requirements when it comes to scrub colors, while others will let you wear whatever you want. Your recruiter can help if you have questions.

Underneath your scrubs, opt for comfortable, non-revealing undergarments. And don’t forget about layering! A lightweight jacket or lab coat can be a lifesaver in cooler environments or when you’re moving between different temperature zones.


You’ll be on your feet often, so investing in a good pair of shoes is crucial. Dress codes typically require closed-toe, non-slip shoes to keep you safe and hygienic. Look for shoes that offer good support and comfort to get you through those long shifts. Athletic shoes or professional nursing clogs are popular choices. Having a spare pair is also a good idea, especially for potentially messy situations.

Popular brands for nursing shoes include Brooks, Hoka and On Cloud. If you’re looking for a new pair, check out a running store and get fitted personally. What works for you may not work for someone else so taking advice on the internet or from other nurses might not get you the best fit. Another bonus is that many running stores will do an exchange if you buy and the shoe doesn’t end up working for you.


When it comes to accessories, less is more. Jewelry should be kept to a minimum to avoid any risk of contamination or injury. Simple wedding bands and small stud earrings are generally fine but steer clear of anything large or dangling. A good watch with a second timer or digital display is essential for keeping track of vitals.


Keep things neat and professional. Long hair should be tied back in a bun, ponytail, or braid to stay out of the way and maintain hygiene. Facial hair should be well-groomed and kept short so it doesn’t interfere with masks and other protective gear. Each facility might have specific guidelines, so checking facility requirements in advance is recommended.

Tattoos and piercings are becoming more accepted in the healthcare world, but policies can vary. Some places might ask you to cover visible tattoos, especially if they’re considered inappropriate or distracting. Keep piercings to simple studs, and avoid anything excessive or large that might need removal during shifts.

Find Travel Nurse Jobs with Triage

Ready to embark on your next travel nursing adventure? Triage Staffing is here to help you find the perfect assignments that match your skills, preferences, and career goals. With a wide range of opportunities nationwide, Triage makes it easy to discover new places, meet diverse teams, and gain invaluable experience in different healthcare settings.

Search our job board to explore the latest travel nurse jobs and take the next step in your nursing career. Read more about how travel nursing works and how we help nurses like you find their dream travel nursing position.