What Color Scrubs Do Medical Students Wear?

Medical students can be found wearing any color of scrubs but popular choices include green, red, blue and black. Most US-based medical schools have their own uniform policy for their students, meaning they are often required to wear one color (or coats over scrubs). Therefore scrub choice is usually hospital or school specific.

Personally, I love wearing scrubs. They’re probably the most comfortable clothes ever. And I liken wearing them to being able to wear pyjamas professionally.

In fact, I like them so much you’ll often catch me sitting around in my scrubs outside of class or hospital. I own so many pairs now (Medical University Varna lets us choose our own colors) I wear them casually around the house too. Even work out in them.

Too much information? Probably. But let’s go a bit further into the wonderful world of scrubs.

What are Scrubs?

Aside from being the name of wildly popular hospital-based TV show, “scrubs” are the uniform of clinicians. Y’know, the people that work in hospitals or private healthcare settings. Oh and the people learning to do those jobs (like me) too.

Scrubs are designed with comfort and manoeuvrability in mind. As working in healthcare can be quite a physical job, especially when called upon to move and examine patients etc.

Other key design features include the following:

  • Easy to clean and launder – useful given how frequently contaminants (and bodily fluids) can be spilled in such an environment.
  • Identification – they function as a uniform helping people distinguish between patients and workers
  • Protection – prevent people’s regular clothes from becoming dirtied (or worse) and reduce the spread of infectious agents (they’re designed to be washed directly after use)
  • Cheap – made mainly from cotton scrubs are cheap and replaceable

According to Wikipedia scrubs are something of a 20th century invention. While the green colored scrubs we’re most familiar with today didn’t really come into the fore until the late 50’s and 60’s. Mainly to make red blood splashes less apparent!

The Medical Student Dress Code

Each medical school has its own set of guidelines when it comes to advising medical students what to wear. In the US some schools prefer white coats. Stanford, for example, is one of those places. Considering scrubs “unprofessional attire for patient encounters.”

My own personal experience, as a European-based international med student, is more of the “anything goes” variety. We have the choice when it comes to deciding what to wear in hospital; a white coat or any color of scrubs.

Usually though the policy on scrubs is quite strict. The Universities that do allow them? Urge them never to be worn publicly and only in certain clinical settings. So it really depends on where you go.

Students will receive a dress code policy before starting their study too. So there really is no excuse for med students not knowing what to wear.

One final thing; this policy only counts for the clinical side of things. In lectures, assuming you go, you can wear pretty much anything you want. Although I wouldn’t advise anything too extravagant. These are the same people who will be examining you after all.

What is the Best Scrub Color for Medical Students?

The best color scrubs for medical students are the one’s the University explicitly states you wear. In the case there’s no policy? The hospital or clinical-setting you work in will probably issue you their own. Thus making the decision for you.

Nice to have that pressure taken off you right?

I know in the NHS for example, at least in Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust where I did an orthopaedics placement, that color was blue (hence why in the UK scrubs are also know as “theatre blues”. But I never had a say in the matter – just taking and returning the scrubs to the hospital dispensary!

The answer to the question then is this. There is no “best” color. There are only practical colors. Colors of personal choice. And hospital specific colors.

Practical colors are obviously those of a darker shade; deep red, navy blue or dark green.

I wouldn’t recommend white for example (although I do have a white pair). They’re just impossible to keep clean.

You also have to consider that certain departments in a hospital might reserve colors; issuing red to nurses for example. So you have to be careful about that too.

Aside from color though, you also want to think about the following factors when it comes to scrub selection:

  • Breathability
  • Fit
  • Effectiveness (how antimicrobial they are etc)

Who Wears Scrubs?

As for who wears scrubs in a hospital in really can vary. In the UK, depending on hospital policy, any doctor can wear them. Especially as the white coat is more of an American thing.

Generally though you’ll find the following people wearing scrubs in a hospital:

  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Hygienists
  • Technicians
  • Medical students

Again though this is very hospital specific. And there is no universal rule that dictates who should wear scrubs or what color they might be.


Scrubs is a bit of a unique issue in medical school land. Some schools require their students to wear them while others prefer they opt for the white coat over more smart casual wear.

Often you’ll find the rogue healthcare worker who likes to do their own thing too. Wearing a flashy or bespoke pair of scrubs that you probably woudn’t want to be seen dead in!

Give people too much choice over the color of scrubs and they’ll run with it.

Image credits; Lee Lin at Unsplash