We’ve just started a new project looking at uniforms, so thought we’d let you know a bit more about it.
Why are we looking at uniforms?
While most care home staff wear uniforms at work, an ambition to make care homes feel less formal has led some organisations to remove uniforms from their care homes. There is also a body of opinion that uniforms create an ‘us & them’ barrier between staff and residents, and having everyone in normal clothing creates a more friendly atmosphere with less of a power imbalance.
Conversely, many staff feel their uniform gives them a sense of professionalism and that residents find it more reassuring to receive personal care from someone in uniform. There are also costs associated with wearing one’s own clothes to work. Some families like the non-uniform style while others find it confusing not being able to immediately identify a member of staff. Additionally, badges are part of a uniform and can also help with identification, but corporate logos can often take priority over a person’s name.
There is currently very little research evidence about uniforms in UK care homes. Care UK, the UK’s largest independent provider of health and social care with over 100 care homes, are keen to explore the attitudes of residents, relatives and staff concerning the wearing of uniforms in order to inform their ongoing dementia strategy development. The Association for Dementia Studies will be working with Care UK to carry out an initial exploratory study which we’ve called ‘Wear to Care’.
What is the aim of the work?
The main aim of this exploratory study is to investigate the opinions, experiences and preferences of residents, relatives and staff in relation to the wearing of uniforms within care homes, and also the style of badges worn by staff. The focus will be on those residents living with dementia or cognitive impairment.
This study will provide initial evidence to inform the development of Care UK’s organisational strategy for a staff dress code and hopefully lead to a larger scale project to explore different aspects of this topic in greater detail.
What will be involved?
The plan is to undertake three main activities within this work. The first is a literature review to explore what it already known about uniforms in care homes, bearing in mind that for now we’re focusing on daytime clothing and not the use of pyjamas for staff working at night.
Secondly, we’ll be conducting a short survey in two Care UK care homes with staff, family members and visitors to get their views on three different clothing options:
- ‘Traditional’ nursing style uniforms
- Polo shirts
- Appropriate ‘own clothes’
Different styles of badges will also be included to see which format is easiest to read. We’ll be making it visual by including photographs of each uniform and badge option, making it clear what we mean in each case.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, we’ll be using the same photographs as part of an interactive activity in the same two Care UK care home with residents themselves to get their views on the use of uniforms and badges.
As it’s an exploratory study at this stage, the survey and resident activity will only be carried out within two of Care UK’s care homes for now, and we’re really pleased to be working closely with these two homes.
What happens next?
The project has only just started, but hopefully the survey and resident activity will be carried out in March/April and we’re looking to report to Care UK in late Summer. We’ve already got lots of ideas for different aspects we could look at in potential future work, so who knows what this exploratory study could lead to?
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