How To Dress For Clinical Rotations: 5 Tips for CNA Students

What you wear to clinical sites will directly set the pace for your career as a CNA. Although it’s good to express your individuality, especially in a sea of other students and medical workers, you need to be mindful of the work environment. Choosing the right attire and presenting a professional image will help to inspire patient confidence in your ability and even help you to land a job at the facility where you train. Appropriate wear goes right along with a winning smile and attitude, and could help others to recognize you as a competent individual right from the start.

Remember First Impressions Last
Painted faces, bouncy curls, and excess cleavage have their place; they don’t belong in a medical setting. You may be a competent and skilled nurses’ aide, but no one would know it if you wear inappropriate attire and draw attention to your physical attributes instead of your skills. Bare skin in all the wrong places can create discomfort and put you at risk. Wear the school-assigned uniform, minimal makeup, and clean cut hair. Your uniform and shoes should be presentable and clean if you want to convey a sense of confidence in your ability.

Adhere To The Dress Code
Most schools will turn away an inappropriately dressed student. However, it shouldn’t have to be that way. Review the school’s dress code policy, which will be in line with the requirements of the clinical site. Don’t stretch boundaries by wearing your interpretation of what the school wants. The dress code is in place for a specific reason, so make sure you follow it.

Watch Out For Those Undies
White scrubs are a traditional wear for nursing assistant students and staff. It should be obvious that bold colors would show through and be totally inappropriate in the professional environment. Yet it must be said; bold undergarments, such as neon and pink, and thongs are unprofessional and will not earn you any respect.

Minimize Accessories
Chunky accessories on your fingers, ears, and neck not only get in the way when you’re caring for patients; they’re distracting and take the focus off your skills as a budding caregiver. You want your patients to pay attention to your actions and commands and have confidence in your abilities. Painted nails and jewelry are hazardous and unprofessional. Some schools won’t specify a color; they leave it up to students to choose their attire. Most clinical experiences occur in long-term care settings, so keep your attire appropriate to the population – bright colors and cartoon characters emblazoned on your scrubs are out of the question.

Keep it Clean
Clean scrubs are essential, not just for appearance’s sake but also for safety. It is vital that you disinfect your scrubs before reporting for your next session. Pre-treat them to remove any stubborn stains, and double wash if necessary. Keep your whites sparkling and replace your colored scrubs if they’re faded. A good practice is to reserve your uniform for the workplace only to avoid contamination and stains, from your food and other sources. Similar to your scrubs, you should give your shoes the VIP treatment. Clean them daily and replace them if they look worn and dirty.

Safety First

Appropriate footwear is an important issue for all healthcare professionals. Closed-toe and closed-heel will protect your feet from overlapping hazards in the healthcare environment. Proper footwear provides a shield against falling objects, objects that can pierce the sole of your feet, and exposure to harmful chemicals or bodily fluids. Other risks in the healthcare environment include sharp medical instruments, heavy rolling objects, and needles.

Since you’ll spend long stretches of time on your feet, comfort is also priority. High-quality clogs are a must-have for healthcare professionals who stand all day. They provide proper support across the entire bottom of your feet and minimize foot, ankle, knee, and back pain. Quality is essential. Select a brand that offers a supportive midsole, proper coverage, slip-resistant, and ease of putting on/taking off. They must offer the right balance between comfort and safety.

The school may mandate a specific color for your shoes – black, white, or grey. Sneakers, canvas, mesh, and even clogs may be disallowed. Check the policy before you purchase shoes for the clinical.

Cover up

Although perceptions are changing, patients are less likely to trust healthcare professionals with visible tattoos. Healthcare policies require certified nursing assistants to cover visible tattoos during clinicals and in their eventual place of work. Covering of tattoos while on duty is especially critical when caring for elderly patients. A visible tattoo may hinder the establishment of rapport and trust with your patients who may have a stereotypical clean-cut image for their caregiver. Ultimately, healthcare facilities value patient satisfaction, so requiring the coverage of tattoos is one measure to appeal to the general patient population. Review the school’s and health care facility’s policy as it relates to tattoos and cover up when you’re on duty.

Personal Hygiene

Last, but certainly not least, is personal hygiene. Body odors, both good and bad, can cause patient distress. Perfumes should not be overpowering – and if possible, leave it out altogether. Some facilities have an outright ban on perfume as they invoke allergic reactions in some patients. Stick to soap and a mild antiperspirant. Fingernails should be clean and short – not protruding pass your fingertips. Artificial nails are prohibited in the healthcare environment. They provide a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi that can be transmitted to patients with low immunity. On the subject of fingernails, nail polish is also not advised, as bacteria may also lodge in chipped corners and pass on to patients.


Your name badge communicates your name and position to patients, visitors, and other members of the healthcare team. During the clinical rotation, your school’s uniform and logo may accomplish the same purpose, but it is essential that you get in the habit of wearing your name badge. The identification also provides a measure of safety for patients, as they’ll know who is attending to them. It must be worn in a way that does not interfere with your work. Like your uniform and shoes, make sure to clean it when its visibly soiled. Wear the lanyard so that it does not come into direct contact with the patient.

If you have nurse aide clinicals coming up, check with the program administrator and the clinical facility as policies may differ. The policies are not in place to subjugate your individuality. They help to establish your competence and professionalism with patients and visitors. They provide for your safety and that of the patient. When viewed from this point of view, it will remove all sense of antagonism and promote a sense of responsibility and commitment to maintaining the safety of the patients you serve.


Crystal G

Crystal is a certified Registered Nurse (RN) with a passion for writing about nursing education. Through her articles, Crystal shares insights and tips to help fellow nurses enhance their skills and stay updated with the latest developments in the field. With a focus on practical advice and relevant topics, Crystal's writing is a valuable resource for nursing professionals seeking to advance their careers.