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Yes, scrubs: nursing in the 21st century

When setting out to obtain the fastest marathon time in nurse’s uniform, Jessica Anderson hit an unexpected snag. Guinness World Records didn’t recognise the scrubs she ran in as ‘nurse’s uniform’ – which their rules listed specifically to be 'a blue or white dress, a white pinafore or apron, and a traditional white nurse’s cap.' With this oversight, Anderson crossed the marathon finishing line to take 32 seconds off the previous world record, and left the adjudicating body several decades behind her.

Dress. Pinafore. Cap. It’s clear that our cultural mental image of nurses can be archaic. We have seen similarly outdated impressions in the pharma and health industries, where nurses are frequently under-appreciated and ignored, despite them having greater influence and decision-making power with every passing year. Whilst some organisations are starting to catch up, there’s a long way to go to redress this imbalance.

Nurses are the life-blood of our healthcare system. They have the most contact with patients in hospital, provide the majority of the care for individuals with chronic conditions, and consistently give vital practical and emotional support that is less frequently provided by doctors. Specialist nurses are also increasingly involved in making prescribing decisions. For these reasons, and out of respect for the work nurses do, we must involve them in our creative processes. We are not on the wards every day in the way they are, so this is the only way to ensure that what we design is truly fit to serve the people it is made for.

At 11 London, we help health brands (both commercial and not-for-profit) provide informative and practical communications to nurses, across a variety of therapy areas, and always consider specific needs and situations, whether they are hospital or community based, general or specialist nurses. To do this, we regularly work with groups such as the Royal College of Nurses to make sure that what we create for is truly fit for purpose, whether it be to create educational materials for nephrology nurses, or height charts for growth hormone specialists.

We took this approach when we worked with the World Health Organisation to re-align the partograph - a 60 year-old care tool used in childbirth in low-middle income countries all around the world. Our redesign had to meet the needs and skills of a wide range of nurses, midwives and doctors around the world, from remote rural areas to highly developed maternity wards. During the developmental process, our design was shown to 8000 women and accompanying health care professionals, to ensure it universally met the real-life need.

Guinness World Records didn’t mean to be offensive. They just hadn’t updated their processes with the times, and were met with the due response. Following public backlash, they have since awarded Jessica Anderson the world record for fastest female marathon wearing a nurse’s uniform, after admitting its requirements were ‘outdated, incorrect and reflected a stereotype we do not in any way wish to perpetuate.’ (Samantha Fay, vice-president) The incident serves as a reminder that healthcare is constantly changing, and everyone needs to keep up.

About 11 London

11 London is an advertising and communications agency, based in leafy West London. We work in the areas of health and humanity - with organisations, brands or products that improve or prolong life. To learn more about 11 London, please contact Matthew Hunt at


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