Is There a Standard EMT Uniform? – Part II

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In the last article in this series we discussed that there are a variety of very different uniform types that modern EMTs use as their everyday uniform. From a more professional Class A look to more dressed down polo and t-shirt looks, there is definitely diversity when it comes to EMS Uniforms. As we have researched a bit in the field, we have also found that some EMS professionals are not very happy with this lack of standardization in their uniform. On certain ems forums, discussion boards, and blogs, there is quite a lot of discussion about why they like and don’t like certain kinds of uniforms and some discussion on what kind of uniform might be a good standard for ems professionals. We will help to explore some of these ideas here in this second part of the series.

So, first lets start out with the ever popular Class A/B look of the button down poly or poly/cotton shirt. Benefits are that it looks very professional and commands respect as knowledgeable about what they are doing. Drawbacks are a few. For one, they are not nearly as comfortable as polos or t-shirts, especially if working a long shift. Overall, EMTs feel stuffy and not as free in their range of motions to do a good job. Also, in the summer months, this uniform could feel very warm indeed.

Second, it is hard to distinguish this uniform from a law enforcement officer. This might seem trivial at first glance but this could actually put healthcare workers in harm’s way if the general public can’t identify who you are very quickly. Another common complaint is that they are hard to stay clean and professional looking for long periods of time, requiring them to clean them more often and spend more time ironing, etc. They also are more expensive than polos and t-shirts and might require extra alterations to make them fit just right.

Ok, so lets look at the polo shirts. Obviously not as professional looking as the button down shirts but many ems professionals think they look professional enough as long as the owner is wearing it right (keep it tucked in, keep it wrinkle free and clean). As we said before, they are much more breathable than the button downs and are more comfortable to wear for long shifts. There is a possibility for stains a little bit more than the button down shirts because of the fabrics involved but most shirts EMTs look at should have a Teflon fabric protector to cut down on incidents like this. Polo shirts can also be very identifiable because they can have large EMT, EMS, or PARAMEDIC letters attached to the back of the shirt via patches or silkscreen. They don’t usually have as many pockets on the shirts like the Class A shirts, but there is usually at least a pen pocket somewhere and a mic pocket.

On to t-shirts. These shirts have many of the same pros of the polos. They are comfortable. They can be very identifiable with silkscreen printed lettering or star of life on the front and backs. They can keep the EMT cool while working under pressure. But some EMTs have a real problem with having a T-shirt as their main uniform all the time. It is just not professional looking enough and it doesn’t convey the authority that these professionals should deserve when treating patients and interacting with the public.

Some paramedics and EMTs wear jumpsuits or coveralls. These uniforms have the advantage of being fairly neat looking all the time but also very functional and gives the worker maneuverability. They don’t have to constantly be tucking their shirt back in their pants. Jumpsuits also come with lots and lots of pockets, something EMTs usually want as you can tell by a pair of EMT pants. One problem with jumpsuits is that they aren’t as comfortable to wear after long periods of time and most users admit to getting pretty warm in them.

Another idea that seems to come up some times is the use of scrubs. Since so many other medical professionals like nurses and doctors wear scrubs for so much of their every day work, some EMTs and paramedics have suggested that they also should use scrubs as they lend themselves very well to the kind of work that they do. And if you take into consideration that the general public already knows what a person in scrubs job type is, it makes them fairly identifiable at the scene pretty quickly. Some down sides to wearing scrubs are that many feel they don’t look professional at all and are not nearly as durable and rugged as they need to be for regular paramedic work that is done outside. Some feel they are like wearing pajamas.

In the next article in this series, we will look at another aspect of the uniform that often comes up when talking about a standardized EMT uniform that we have not discussed yet, and that is color. Stay tuned.

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