Genius reason doctors scrubs are either blue or green – as it can be lifesaving

By Staff 6 Min Read

Doctors, nurses and medics once wore white drapes to work everyday – but this all changed when one person made a pioneering decision in the early 20th century

Most of us have probably never wondered why doctors’ scrubs are blue or green. It’s a characteristic that’s understandably overlooked when rushing to A&E with anything from a broken arm to a missing finger.

But a TikToker now claims these greenish shades are by no means an accident or fashion choice, serving a very useful purpose to medics on the frontline at hospitals. The US-based Urology student, Hunter Norton, took to the platform just last week, joking that while roses may be red, surgical drapes certainly can’t be.

This is primarily because red is too similar to the colour of our blood, making it more difficult to spot in potentially life-threatening situations – especially when a patient is on the operation table. Posting a jokey roleplay video to his page (@norton_fam), he explained: “If we get red blood on a red gown, do you think we would be able to see that well?

“…Plus blood on light blue or green doesn’t really look like blood, so it’s less scary.” According to the 1998 issue of Today’s Surgical Nurse, this practice has been the norm in hospitals ever since the early 20th century, after one pioneering surgeon made the switch from white to green scrubs.

Medics had initially picked white as it’s the ‘colour of cleanliness’, but Scienceline suggests green actually works better, serving as a complete contrast to red and allowing blood to stand out more straight away. Red gowns were also avoided as they can encourage something known as the ‘alter effect’.

In its simplest terms, a huge focus on red colours can project strange green illusions on white surfaces in our field of vision. This can be quite confusing and distracting in the worst of cases – especially if visible on a patient’s bloody innards.

Hunter’s TikTok has been met with hundreds of surprised comments from his 233k followers, with many previously convinced that green had been for entirely different reasons altogether. One person wrote: “I thought it was in part due to the psychology with patients – green & blues = more calming & more calm a patient is can affect the outcome.”

The Urology student replied to this, adding: “That too!” However, other fans who also work in the medical profession, claimed their hospitals had opted out of the green drape trend.

“The scrubs in Australia are red though,” one person wrote, as another chimed in: “Meanwhile Philippines’ BFP has a uniform with camouflage print in colour orange.”

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