The Nursing Cap – No, Really.

By December 28, 2015Uncategorized

From Wikipedia:

capsThe nurse’s cap originated from a group of women in the early Christian era, called “deaconesses.” Deaconesses are now recognized as religious order nuns. These women were distinguished from other women during this time by white coverings worn on their heads. This particular head covering was worn to show that this group of women worked in the service of caring for the sick. Originally, this head covering was more of a veil, but it later evolved into a white cap during the Victorian era. It was during this era that proper women were required to keep their heads covered. The cap worn was hood-shaped with a ruffle around the face and tied under the chin, similar to cleaning ladies of that day. Long hair was fashionable during the Victorian era, so the cap kept the nurse’s hair up and out of her face, as well as keeping it from becoming soiled.

So, Nursing Caps became tradition because some antiquated society thought that proper women should keep their heads covered.  Let’s get that one straight.

I love the symbol of the nursing cap because it is something we all recognize as ‘ours’.  However, that does not mean that it is a good or HEALTHY symbol for our profession.

Today, a seasoned nurse posted this:

Nurses, please, I am begging you. Don’t wear your hair down when you wear your nursing cap! It could not be more unprofessional! If you want to show off graduation pictures, or capping ceremony pictures, get that hair UP!

Give me some credit.  I tried to save her.  

However, it degenerated into exactly what you might think.  However, the ‘are you crazy?’ responses disturbed me less than the “Honor the Cap” responses.  Indignant honor the cap responses.  Like…seriously…. Also, a nurse who says she wears a cap to work every single day.  Who essentially said that we would all be much better off if nursing traditions were followed…

What nursing traditions? You mean the ones where we followed the Doc around with the chart rack, lit his cigarette, stood when he arrived at the nurse’s station, and offered him our chairs?  Because, we had just worked all night and a man taking a chair from a lady isn’t acceptable in any OTHER situation I know of.  Except for this one……would you like to know why?

That cap identified you as a servant.  

They told you it was to serve sick people, which was fine.  however, skip back a paragraph and read that scenario again. You have a degree, you can be sued for malpractice.  You are responsible for the lives of your patients.  You do not juggle bedpans and light physician’s cigarettes.  You are not a ‘TV’ nurse.  And women in this society do not have to keep their heads covered so they are not considered a harlot. Also……MEN are nurses now. 

My Response to the cap wearer:

Enjoy your cap. We are not going to agree. However, Nurses do not wear the cap anymore. I am not sure what setting you work in, but my hospital would have a nervous breakdown if I were to show up in a cap. Because they are an infection control issue. Also, I would poke my eyes out first, because they are a symbol NOT of a great tradition, but of the doctor’s handmaiden stereotype that we must rid ourselves of if we are going to be taken seriously as a profession. Peace.

And that, my friends….is that.

There are really important issues that we have to work on in nursing, and they sure as hell are not nursing traditions.  Safe Staffing.  Workplace Violence. No Psych Beds. You know….real things that have an impact on our patients.  Not our pretty hats. Nursing has changed, fashion is not what it once was, and insurance companies are running the place.

Focus, damnit.






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Author Janie Garner

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Join the discussion 11 Comments

  • Wish I could edit my post….I meant to write we HAD many nurses in the ED who were male.

  • You have an amazing way with words, Jamie Garner! Thanks for putting things in perspective, yet again. You must feel like you’re running a preschool sometimes….I hope you’re laughing, because it’s so much better than crying ?

  • Becky says:

    This is awesome!! Well done!!!

  • Greg Zoll says:

    Keeping it real as usual. Thank you for the laugh Janie.

  • blueeyezrn says:

    The last time that I wore my cap was my first year of nursing school. I bent over to pick up a full bedpan and when I stood up the curtain was stuck in my cap!! I proceeded to dump the bedpan all over my shoes, nylons and uniform!! Of course, the patient thought it was hysterical. While I wanted to swear a blue streak I was thankful it was the last month we would have to wear those dreaded things.

  • Kasey.VL says:

    We didn’t wear caps at my pinning ceremony. When I see pics posted, I’m actually surprised. I wonder how the single gent. of the class would have responded…never mind, yes, I DO know the response. Ah, hells NO!
    The times, they are a changin’.

  • Kristen Mari says:

    Maybe my perspective is different, I don’t know. I never considered wearing the cap is signifying my role as a handmaiden to a physician, ever. I don’t wear mine, (I’m not even sure where it is at the momoent) but I am damn proud of my cap, and I would wear it proudly. For me, the cap signifies the honorable and honest profession of nursing that patients and citizens vote as being “the most trusted profession” (over other professionals that they come into contact with during their care).

    Rather than siginfiying that we are the handmaidens of physicians, I think it set us apart as the hard working, knowledgeable, trustworthy, honest, compassionate, and honorable profession that we are. Regardless of where the original “cap” came from or why, it stands for nurses now. Granted, we obviously don’t need to wear a cap to be seen as the most trusted profession. But its my opinion that when patients see a nurse with a cap, that is what THEY are thinking, especially more elderly patients.

  • Carlota says:

    Hi Janie. Cap wearing is normal for us Filipino Nurses in the Philippines, a part of our uniform. We’re understaffed, overworked, underpaid and to think about being physicians’ handmaiden (nurse’s cap) didn’t crossed our mind, to say the least. Now, some of these cap-users left home country and family for better opportunities, took off their caps as per hospital’s policy – still degraded, treated an inferior race. That cap identified you as a servant? My response: Those caps we used before are being washed same time as we wash our scrubs (infection control, you said). That being said, cap or with no cap, its a great pleasure to serve my patients. Confidently serving you with a heart. <3

    • janiegarner says:

      I know that other countries have different customs, Carlota. Thank you for bringing yours to our attention! However, I submit that I would rather be a nurse in the US. Because you guys really DO get treated badly and paid nothing. I have loved all of my filipino colleagues. Racial relations are a completely different, and awful problem.

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