Hospital scrubs are not an obvious product with a gender story, but they are an interesting example of what the Femme Den describes as “transparent design.” With unisex scrubs, the gender story is vital yet invisible, veiled under the simple notion of “good design for all.”
In the typical operating room, the dominant voice is that of the experienced surgeon. The typical surgeon is male, so surgical products are designed to meet his needs. The problem is 75 percent of workers in the operating room are actually women, so traditional unisex scrubs don’t effectively serve the female majority. Women have wider hips, typically shorter legs and rise, and since scrubs are worn in lieu of all other clothing, need coverage across the chest to prevent unwanted frontal exposure. (One surgeon we interviewed said, “I have seen every nurse’s boobs in this hospital.”)
By understanding the gender differences at play in this everyday, low-cost commodity product, we were able to redesign the surgical scrub for universal appeal. We made improvements such as collars that don’t blouse open, a waistline and inseam that adjust for male and female bodies, angled pockets that prevent tools from dropping, breathable mesh panels for circulation and adjustable leg lengths. They are durable and stretchable and no longer look like pajamas. In the end, our product for Cardinal Health helps hospital workers look more professional, keeps uniforms in use longer, and improves surgical performance — all while making male and female employees equally happy.