Although both terms, surgical scrubs and medical scrubs, may be used simultaneously to describe the same type of uniform worn by healthcare practitioners, there is a difference. I have spent the past three decades wearing surgical scrubs as a surgical assistant, as well as observing other healthcare personnel wearing medical scrubs. I now provide both surgical scrubs and medical scrubs as a retailer and began to notice the differences. The differences are primarily in terms of functionality, design and style. I will attempt to describe these differences.
First, in terms of functionality, the surgical scrub is designed for wear in the operating room or other surgical facility. In the surgical facility, the patient remains stationary, and the caregivers must adapt in order to provide care. While providing care for these patients, the caregivers must have unrestricted movements. This requires bending, twisting, stretching, and contorting the body to reach the appropriate areas of the patient to provide care. Other duties require moving equipment running power cords that require pushing, pulling and even kneeling. These people are always on the move and rarely stationary. Because of these movements, is it necessary to wear loose fitting and unrestrictive clothing. In contrast, caregivers that wear medical scrubs are usually providing care to patients that can move to accommodate the caregiver's needs, or they are sitting at a desk doing administrative duties. These people are not required to move their bodies as extreme as the surgical caregivers. Therefore, they are able to wear more restrictive clothing such as medical scrubs.
The design of surgical scrubs and medical scrubs are drastically different. Both are designed to accommodate the functionality of the uniform. Surgical Scrubs are usually a square cut top with a loose fitting v-neck design with simple patch pockets. The bottoms are straight leg. The waste is either a drawstring, elastic or a combination of both. The Drawstring is by far the most common. The pants usually have a single patch pocket. In contrast, medical scrubs are available in many designs. Most are designed with flares and curves to contour to the body. Tops are available in several neck line designs, including rounded and wrap around. Pockets are usually flashy designs and shapes. Medical scrubs pants are designed with flare legs and curvature in the hip area. The pants always come with an elastic waist bands and are designed to be worn either high on the waist or low on the hips. Medical scrubs design limits the freedom of movement without confinements of the uniform.
The differences in styles between surgical scrubs and medical are the most drastic. Putting it simple, surgical scrubs have no style. They are always a unisex style, so they can be worn by both female and male caregivers. Surgical scrubs are also always a solid color. The non-style of the surgical scrub enables the surgical caregiver to perform at an optimal level without any restrictions from the uniforms. As far as medical scrubs, the style is unlimited and vast. They are available in many colors, prints and styles. Medical scrubs are styled for the female and male separately. These styles are designed to fit the body as most other street clothes will and has an appealing look. Medical scrubs styles compromises functionality for fashion appeal. The difference can be related to a sweatshirt and sweatpants (surgical scrubs) and a business suit.
Both terms are in use interchangeable in everyday life. There are also many other terms that describe these uniforms such as hospital scrubs, doctor scrubs, and nursing scrubs to name a few. Regardless of the term used, the important aspect of buying and wearing scrubs is to select the correct functionality, design and style that meet the needs of the caregiver's duties.