Nurses Commuting by Bike

I got this comment on my Scrubs are My Uniform post and thought it needed a full post to reply:


I found your blog when I was searching for nurses who commute to work via bicycle. I am considering giving this a try. I live 2.5 miles from the hospital that I work at, but I am concerned about riding in my scrubs. (I guess this post is somewhat on topic of your blog entry). I don’t think it would be very smart to ride in scrubs seeing as how they are my professional attire and I don’t want to damage them. What would be best to ride in? I don’t want to show up at the hospital in tight spandex… but I need something that will help me sweat less.

Thanks for your help!

I’ve never felt qualified to give advice on my blog, it’s an aversion to taking a stand maybe.  But on this topic I have more than a little experience.  I’ve been commuting by bike for the last 4 years.  While it hasn’t been full time for the last year, it’s been rather frequent.  A caveat here though:  I do not bike the entire ride to work.  I’m not going to ride 13+ miles then work a 12-hour shift on the floor, just not that fit.  Yet.  I ride anywhere from 1-3 miles (depending on weather, how I feel etc.) to catch a light rail train then a mile or so on the other end.  But I’ve done it in every kind of weather.  Rain, snow, howling winds, >100 degrees <10 degrees, have suffered through it all, and loved it.  Enough of my cred though…

Yes, riding in scrubs is a bad idea.  They are not built for athletic excursions and depending on weather conditions, not very versatile either.  This doesn’t mean you have to go full on spandex kit either.

Full kit and Hardcore.

There is nothing wrong with plain old shorts and a t-shirt.  During the summer months it’s what I ride in.  I do wear bike shorts underneath the regular shorts to alleviate chafing and add a little extra padding which is especially nice when I decide to go for a ride on the way home.  I stay cool enough in that and don’t end up looking like a superhero.  Winter/Fall commuting is a whole other can of worms which deserves a full post as well.

There are complications though.  First, sweat.  Starting the shift sweaty isn’t the best, in fact it really sucks.  In the depth of the Summer when it is 80+ I sweat heavily.  Let’s face it:  I’m a big sweaty guy.  There are wipes out there that some folks use, but I use water and paper towels in the restroom at work.  And I carry deodorant in my bag.  Second issues is hauling your stuff.  I started using a backpack, graduated to a messenger bag, back to a back pack and now use panniers.  Besides a sweat issue where the bag meets the back, the bags did a number on my back that went away when I started using a pannier.  I abused the Banjo Brothers Waterproof Pannier into submission and ended up replacing it with ones from Ortlieb.  There is enough room to carry my scrubs, wallet, keys, cell phone, afore-mentioned deodorant, lunch with room to spare.  I use the restroom to change on arrival, so I have to build in extra time for the commute to allow for this.  With clean scrubs, a quick towel off and a swipe of deodorant you will smell better than 99% of your patients and maybe some of your co-workers.

The benefits of commuting by bike outweigh the complications.  I get exercise.  I get some alone time before and after my shift.  Sure you get that in a car, but you’re dealing with traffic, right?  I have had absolutely heinous shifts where I’m ready to quit nursing and by the end of my ride home, I’m decompressed and OK with the world and my job again.  I highly recommend it.

Here are some other links about bicycle commuting:

Commute by Bike.  Great site, has a Commuting 101 series which is a great read for those starting out.

Bike  Another site dedicated to those giving up the car commute.

Both of these sites have extensive sets of links for even more information and community building.

Yehuda Moon and the Kickstand Cyclery.  A funny webcomic to keep things light.

Lastly, just go for it.  Try it and see how it goes as that is the only surefire way to know.  Have fun!

Scrubs are My Uniform

Scrubs are pajamas. Initially a simple garment to be worn and left in the operating arena, the scrubs are now available in many a color and pattern to be worn by nurses, billing agents, medical assistants, doctors and anyone else in any way associated with physicians.

The fact that most people have no idea the difference between the girl who takes their copays and the nurse that evaluates them, most people assume they are all “nurses.”…

via The Pajama Brigade makes an Impression | The Happy Medic.

I get it all the time, “Well, you get to go to work in your pajamas.  How cool is that?”  I’ve worn many different uniforms in my work career from slacks, shirt and tie, to industrial workwear and just plain old jeans and a t-shirt and now I get to wear “pajamas” to work.  Sorry, that’s bullshit.  I am required to wear a uniform that happened to have been co-opted as pajamas.  To me, a uniform signifies that it is time to go to work, I call it “getting on my game face”.  Those “pajamas” tell me it is time to work, leave the world behind and focus on my job – my patients.

Now there are those that spoil this for those of us who take it seriously.  Since everyone and their uncle who works in health care  gets to wear scrubs, there are bound to be the one’s who abuse it.  I cringe when I’m out shopping and see people in scrubs, it sets the wrong idea, especially when those wearing them are misbehaving.  It is still bad behavior to break HIPAA whether you are wearing scrubs or not, it just makes it more conspicuous when you are in scrubs.

There are two issues here that get intertwined and blurred.  First there is professional behavior.  It doesn’t matter what you do for a living, you need to maintain a professional mien when representing that job/career/profession.  And yes, health care workers are held to a higher standard, get used to it.  It’s even more important when you are clearly identified by the public (by your wearing scrubs to the bar/lounge/grocery store/porno shop) to be a professional, because they associate scrubs with nurses/doctors.

Acting like an idiot in scrubs makes a bigger impression than it does in street clothes – people notice.  Second is the proliferation of scrubs into so many different fields.  Are they the doc/RT/PT/housekeeping/CNA/RN?  You can’t always tell.  Not to mention those outside of the hospital like vets, dental folks, office staff and the like where this has spread into.  Too many people wearing scrubs makes life confusing.  And due to this proliferation, clamping down and restricting use will be near impossible.  All that is left is some sort of uniform – like our friends in EMS/Fire/Police, or hospital color coding by job function.

As long as the color is not white, I can get behind this.  More so, I think that institutions need to require changing at work.  You get to work, change out of street clothes into hospital uniforms, then do the reverse when you leave.  If we are so worried about the spread of superbugs, why isn’t this a common sense idea?  I leave my work shoes at work and change clothes (partly because I usually commute by bike) on arriving and leaving.  It goes to the idea of getting my game face on.

The lesson here?  Scrubs are every bit a uniform, just like other professions.  Unfortunately there are those that wear my uniform that are unprofessional and act like idiots when in public.  Painting all of us with the same brush is just as bad.

Monday Potpourri

Potpourri.  Funny word.  Always reminds me of Jeopardy.  But it’s a collection of things.  Randomness in a bowl.


It’s fall, finally.  The leaves are changing and soon I’ll be back to sliding on leaves as I ride to work.  Rain + leaves + cement = road rash.  Happens every year at least once.  But it’s good.  Fall is my favorite.  I don’t mind cold and wet, makes me want to curl up with a book, cook soup, plus there are a lot of good memories from growing up that are from the Fall.  I can tell it is coming because of the smell.  It’s a fresh, almost funky wet smell.  It smells like time to pull out the woolies, hoodies and hot toddies.


Insomnia sucks.  Once again I fell asleep for a couple of hours then woke up.  For no reason.  Wide awake in the middle of the night.  Tried to go back to sleep, but just lay there tossing and turning.  Too late to take an Ambien, to early to get up.  It’s frustrating at times.  Before I used CPAP I would have times like this and for a good 6 months after CPAP I haven’t had to deal with this insomnia, but in the last month it has happened more often.  Probably have too much on my mind, ate pizza too late or some other reason to mess up my sleep cycle.  My doc thinks that it’s related to my shift and he has a point, but until I can not take a pay cut to do so, I’m not working days.


I watched a bit of Hoarders last night.  Made me very self-conscious about our house.  While we don’t have garbage laying about, we have too much stuff.  I despair looking at it thinking that we’re going to be moving in the next year and I have no intention of moving so much again.  It comes down to buckling down, sorting and deciding on stuff.  Not the easiest thing in the world.


Halo: Reach.  What can I say?  It has consumed far too much of my time of late.  And why not?  It is an amazing game.  I haven’t had this much fun with a game for a very long time.  People give me shit about it though.  Yeah, I’m in my thirties and probably shouldn’t be so into games anymore.  But why not?  It is something I enjoy, something that provides a little escape from the grind and it’s fun.  Too many people are far to serious and take themselves far too seriously and want to project that onto everyone they come into contact with.  Sorry, I’m a gamer.  It is my hobby.  Deal with it.


I wish that the hospital would supply scrubs and provide a decent place to change.  When they remodeled our floor they got rid of the bathroom with a shower in it.  It was a nice luxury when you got covered in blood/pee/sputum/blood/assorted nastiness to be able to change scrubs and shower.  I liked it when I rode in the summer for a quick rinse when I stunk from sweating my brains out.  Ixnay on the shower though.  But scrubs, they’re expensive.  Admittedly I like the ones with multiple pockets to carry all of the detritus of floor nursing and they cost more.  If I had a house I could write them off, but I don’t so I eat it.  Would be nice to not have to worry about them.  Show up in street clothes, change and work, then repeat.  Would be nice.

What Not to Wear

One reason I love my job is that I literally get to work in pajamas.  Scrubs are perhaps the most utilitarian of all work uniforms:  comfortable, relatively inexpensive and easy to wear.  I would know.  Having worked in a variety of industries, I’ve had the pleasure of wearing multiple uniforms.

The worst:  slacks, shirt & tie.  I wore this as a cargo loadmaster for an international airline.  For me, being hands-on is an important part of the job, so I ruined numerous dress shirts, countless pairs of pant and a couple of ties as I squeezed in between cargo pallets and into the nooks and crannies of a modern cargo plane.  I was finally able to convince the powers above that as I was working nights, there was no need to wear said uniform.  Khakis and polo shirts became the new dress code.

Second worst: white shirt, bow tie and black slacks.  Worn as a server.  What really topped it off was the full body apron, very classy, especially when you spill food stuffs on it.

The normal:  working as janitor I wore whatever I had been wearing that day.  No changing to go to work, just show up.  Shorts and t-shirt?  Just fine.  Sandals?  Sure.

When I loaded planes, it was jeans and shirts.  Then when winter arrived it was full-on rain gear and insulated coveralls.  But none of these can hold a candle to scrubs.  They are, in my mind, the perfect uniform.  But they are a double edged sword.  Just as you can look good in them, you can also look like a slob.  Dirty, wrinkled, strange color combos and prints, it can all add up to something less than professional.  And many folks don’t care about how they look, they just show up saying, “I’m here.” looking like they rolled out of bed.  Any wonder why image is a big problem for nursing.

A problem I have is finding scrubs I like.  Not a huge fan of the pastel colored prints, for obvious reasons.  And there is not a plethora of “manly” scrubs out there.  While I do agree that this is a female-centric industry, there are more men arriving every day.  For some of the chaps, the unisex scrubs fit great, others not so well.  While there are plenty of scrubs just for the gals, there ain’t much for us boys.  Now I’m not saying we need crazy prints, but prints could be a nice addition.  For now we have to sort through the rests to find those we like.  I’m not completely happy with what I’ve found, an am always on the lookout for different styles, but they do the job well.  I’m still looking for the penultimate scrub set that makes me totally happy.  The search will continue

One thing that scares me though is the public perception.  Recently in a survey at our hospital, a large (>50%) portion of patients identified not knowing who the RN was as a problem.  We all look the same:  RNs, CNAs, Techs, Phlebotomists, etc., all rock scrubs.  Granted, we do look the same, or at least similar.  In the solution portion, in a throwback to an earlier time, 28% responded that whites would be the best way to identify nurses.  Whites?!  Are you kidding?  I have a hard enough time keeping my colors clean and whites would be a nightmare.  I wore white as a student, it was only a top and only for a year, but it was not pleasant.  Not to mention that whites further the image of the nurse handmaiden.  We’re professionals, no longer the pillow-fluffers of yore.  Not that I’m saying those that came before were not professionals, far from it, but that image, the nurse in white is seen as that stereotype.  When you look up naughty nurses (not that I’ve done this…) I’m told they wear whites, not scrubs.  Perception.  Requiring nurses to wear whites, brings this back.  What’s next? Hats?  Candy stripers?  A more palatable version might be profession specific colors, but that could get old in a big hurry.  There may not be a solution to this that works for everyone, but I know that the solution is not whites.