Dress Code / Appearance Standards

I. Purpose, Objective, Scope

  1. Purpose: Students are expected to have an appearance that inspires confidence in oneself and one’s college when interacting with faculty, peers, patients, and the public. All students are expected to maintain personal appearance standards that are expected of our partner organizations, a health care professional, are culturally aware, and that comply with all infection control, legal, and safety requirements.
  2. Objective: This policy’s objective is to provide a clear and comprehensive dress code and appearance standard for students in all College of Nursing programs. Some elements of the dress code are standards required by our clinical partners.
  3. Scope: This policy applies to all students enrolled in any nursing program with the College of Nursing (CON) at Washington State University (all locations and all modalities).

II. Policy Statement

  1. This policy establishes the guidelines for dress, appearance, and hygiene that will reflect the CON’s values.
  2. The faculty of CON, its partner clinical agencies, and the clients it serves expect students to present a professional, well-groomed appearance that reflects the student safety, patient safety, nature of the program, profession, and agency/facility.
  3. Students must comply with the CON’s dress code while attending classes, including while off campus for practicum, community experience, or clinical experience. Clinical agency partners who host WSU nursing students for required training may have additional or more stringent dress code policies that all students must abide by to complete their clinical training.
  4. Students must also take daily preventive measures to maintain good personal hygiene.
  5. Students must comply with course directives regarding appropriate clothing, which may include WSU uniform (scrubs), lab coats, and/or professional work attire.
  6. Noncompliance with this dress code will be reflected in evaluation and may result in dismissal from clinical experiences.
  7. Based on the nature of the learning experience, course faculty, agencies/facilities, or specific units may establish appearance standards in addition to those listed herein.

III. Procedure

  1. To meet the goals of this policy, each program within the College of Nursing has adopted a minimum dress code/standard. Compliance with additional policies related to aspects of dress or appearance and department-specific requirements is expected, but in no instance will the standards be less than or contrary to the general policy.
  2. PL-BSN Minimum Dress Code / Standard: Business Casual
  3. RN-BSN Minimum Dress Code / Standard: Business Casual
  4. MN Minimum Dress Code / Standard: Business Casual
  5. DNP Minimum Dress Code / Standard: Business Casual

*Note – Yakima students are also beholden to additional dress code standards set by PNWU. See 2.iii

  • Review, feedback, and questions.
    • For clinical settings, including skills lab and simulation, faculty will review the dress code with students at the beginning of each clinical rotation and/or prior to the student beginning a learning experience at a clinical setting. Faculty will provide students with specific instructions where exceptions to the dress code can be made.
    • For classroom settings, faculty will reach out to students individually and privately as needed if they are not meeting dress code standards.
    • Students will receive feedback about their grooming and attire from faculty when appearance does not meet expectations.
    • Questions about specific items of clothing or accessories are to be directed to the supervising faculty for the learning experience or to the Director of the Center for Student Excellence (CSE).
  • Resources and outcomes.
    • Students who need supportive resources to meet the dress code or appearance standard can reach out to members of the CSE office for assistance.
    • Students with repeated or egregious instances of inappropriate or unprofessional dress will be sent home for more appropriate attire and a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) form completed by the course faculty. PIPs stay on the student’s record, housed with the CSE office.
      • Important note to students participating in clinical learning experiences:
        • faculty or administration at the clinical setting retain the authority to refuse the student access to the learning experience based on inappropriate attire/non-compliance with policy.
        • students will be required to make up time missed from clinical activities. If sent home, those hours will not count, and agencies may not be able to accommodate missed clinical hours.
    • Students not responding to counselling or adhering to the requirements outlined in their PIP may be flagged as a ‘student not in good standing’ with a hold placed on their WSU account, pending review by the progression committee.
  • The following guidelines will help to define the various dress codes CON utilizes. Specific descriptions of acceptable and unacceptable attire and appearance are provided to eliminate confusion and create consistency in the application of the dress code.
    • Nursing Clinical ID Badge (always required in Simulation Suite, Skills Practice Lab, clinical sites, and practicum settings).
      • Identification in the form of the WSU Nursing Clinical ID Badge is to be always worn and visible at chest level. ID badges must be attached to clothing using the alligator clip or reels, no lanyards are allowed due to safety hazards. While wearing the scrub jacket or white coat in a clinical setting, nursing students will be expected to verbally identify themselves AS STUDENTS and must assume responsibility to clarify their role to patients.
        • Spokane and Yakima: Clinical Nursing ID Badges for Spokane and Yakima nursing students are billed directly to the student’s account. Details are provided during onboarding.
        • Vancouver: Vancouver nursing students purchase their Clinical Nursing ID Badge online through the Vancouver campus Cougar Center using the WSU Vancouver Nursing Badge Payment Form.
        • Tri-Cities: Tri-Cities students contact the Cougar Card campus security office. Details are given upon admission offer.
    • Appearance
      • Clothing, shoes, shoelaces, socks, hair, and skin must be clean and free of odor.
      • Facial hair must be groomed to the standard set by any clinical agency if it is identified specifically.
      • Scrubs must be worn in compliance with the policies of the hosting institution in which the nursing student is assigned for patient care experiences.
      • Yakima students (per 2022-2023 PNWU Student Catalog p24 General Policies -> Dress Code): will, during regular business hours (Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.), be dressed appropriately with awareness to personal hygiene, cleanliness, professional demeanor, and professional dress. Modest professional apparel, or scrubs (top and bottom), will be required for all activities in PNWU buildings. In the case of special events, students must adhere to professional dress.
      • The following are not permitted in any learning experience (Didactic/Theory/Seminar/Practicum, Simulation, Skills Practice, IPE, Clinical, Clinical Practice, etc.):
        • Shirts or attire with political and/or vulgar messaging.
        • Visible undergarments.
        • Clothing that is ripped/has holes or soiled.
        • Sweatpants or pajama bottoms.
        • Low-cut or otherwise revealing clothing (shorts and skirts above midthigh, low-cut blouses, or halter tops,).
        • Exposed skin: midriff, torso, breast, or gluteal.
        • Head coverings (hats, caps, and other head coverings) – except if worn as part of assigned uniform/scrubs, for religious reasons, or for health/safety reasons.
      • The following are not permitted in any clinical or professional nursing practice setting (some agencies have more stringent appearance policies):
        • Sweatpants, yoga pants, leggings, or shorts.
        • Perfume, cologne, after-shave lotion, or scented body lotion – as others may be allergic/sensitive to it or may find it offensive, especially when ill.
        • Students who smoke must have no detectable odor of smoke.
        • Gum chewing.
    • Hygiene
      • Professional students are required to consider the health implications for others with regard to their own personal hygiene (e.g., handwashing, cologne, tobacco products); personal hygiene must be appropriate to the academic or professional environment.
      • Students will follow established guidelines regarding personal hygiene and grooming (including facial hair) as recommended by practice sites, course syllabi, and/or the direction of faculty. Students will value the importance of personal hygiene and grooming for effective interpersonal interactions. Students will encounter variation in custom and expectations in different clinical settings. Students are guests and must comply with clinical setting and hospital requirements.
      • Students will be clean, well groomed, and free from odor, including the smell of cigarette or other tobacco products.
    • Protective Equipment
      • Simulation Suite and Skills Practice Lab
        • Students will use personal protective equipment (eyewear, masks, gowns, gloves) as appropriate, prescribed by the experiential learning staff.
      • Clinical Settings
        • Students will use personal protective equipment (eyewear, masks, gowns, gloves) as appropriate for the clinical situation of the patient, setting, and as prescribed by the policy of the agency to which they are assigned.
        • It is generally expected that the agency will provide this equipment for students. If this is not possible, CON will provide such equipment as recommended by the agency’s policy.
      • Other     
        • Students participating in community service events or other non-clinical, WSU sanctioned activities will follow the guidelines established by the hosting agency or the WSU representative associated with the event.
        • Students, as recognized healthcare professionals in the student role, are to use established best-practice to mitigate spread of any infectious illness (i.e. stay home when symptomatic of illness, wear masks, wash hands).
    • Religious Attire
      • Religious dress requirements will be honored to the extent that they do not conflict with the guidelines of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
      • All requests to modify the clinical dress code for religious purposes are to be made to the CSE Director.
    • Uniform – refer to the Dress Code by Activity Table and Dress Definitions Table in Section IV. Terms and Definitions for specifics regarding:
      • Clothing (tops, bottoms, shoes)
      • Hair (body and face)
      • Make-up
      • Nails and Nail Polish (restrictions necessary to reduce spread of infection)
      • Jewelry (cannot pose a safety risk for staff or patients. Thought must be given as to whether ring settings may scratch or otherwise injure patients or may harbor bacteria).
      • Tattoos

Uniform Type:WSU ScrubsGeneral ScrubsBusiness CasualGeneral Casual
General description:WSU-branded scrubs (i.e. official WSU crimson-colored scrubs with WSU College of Nursing logo)   [sometimes referred to as: logo scrubs]non-WSU scrubs (of any color)   [sometimes referred to as: non-logo scrubs or general scrubs]neutral colors, solid design, simple jewelrycasual, comfortable clothing that doesn’t violate policy.
ID:Nursing Clinical ID BadgeNursing Clinical ID BadgeNursing Clinical ID Badge if attending skills lab, simulation, or community eventN/A
Acceptable Top:WSU-branded scrub topany color scrub topblouse, button-down shirt, collared shirt, WSU polo, sweatershirt, T-shirt, sweatshirt (non-WSU brand ok)
Bottom:WSU-branded scrub pantsany color scrub pantspants (khaki, corduroy, twill, wool, neatly pressed cotton), trousers, slacks, knee-length skirtblue jeans
Jacket:WSU-branded scrub jacket (optional)WSU-branded scrub jacket (optional), WSU-branded sweatshirt, white lab coat (DNP students)blazer, sport coat, cardigan
Shoes:Have primary color of black, white, or grey. Accent color is acceptable.Not contain overall prints such as stripes, polka dots, plaid, or animal print.Be close-toed with solid sides and tops with no holes.Be non-slip, have flexible soles, and low or no heel. Athletic shoes are acceptable.Not canvas or suede.Socks must be worn.same as WSU Scrubsdress shoes, dress bootssandals, flip flops, shoes with holes or mesh
Appearance:All clothing is: clean, in good repair, neat in appearance, fits properly.same as WSU Scrubssame as WSU Scrubssame as WSU Scrubs
Visible Tattoos:Visible tattoos that are obscene, threatening, discriminatory, incite violence or crime are prohibited. Such tattoos must be completely covered.Otherwise, always follow specific policy of agency / partner.same as WSU Scrubssame as WSU Scrubs 
Hair:Hair must be off the collar, pulled back, and secured. Barrettes, ribbons, and other securing devices must be appropriate for a professional environment.Beards are to be clean, neat, and well-trimmed, and follow agency requirements.Religious head covers (e.g., head scarves [hijabs], veils, turbans, bonnets) that are clean, constructed of tightly woven and low-linting material, are without adornments, and fit securely with loose ends tucked in the scrub top may be worn to cover the hair and scalp Altered hair color: always follow specific policy of agency / partner.same as WSU Scrubssame as WSU Scrubs N/A
Nails and Nail Color:Fingernails must be kept trimmed and clean and free of polish or other decoration.Artificial nails or overlays are not permitted.same as WSU Scrubssame as WSU ScrubsN/A
Make-up:Heavy make-up, including bright eye shadow or false facial hair (e.g., eyelashes, beards, eyebrows, and mustaches) is not permitted.same as WSU Scrubssame as WSU ScrubsN/A
Jewelry:Jewelry is limited to one watch, one ring or wedding set per hand, and one set of “post” type earrings worn in earlobes. If gauges in ears are present, flat plugs of a solid color can be worn – no tunnels or hangers.Body piercing other than one set of “post” type earrings worn in earlobes, must be removed for clinical and experiential learning settings.Watches with a sweep second hand or LED second readout. If a Smart Watch is used in the clinical setting, notifications must be turned off and the watch must only be used for clinical purposes.Bracelets are not permitted.All worn jewelry must be non-dangling and with no sharp or protruding edges (including rings). same as WSU Scrubs same as WSU Scrubs N/A

Additional Definitions

Clinical/Practicum Setting

  • Term used to reference community settings where students perform clinical training and projects required of their academic progression. Includes both providing direct patient care and non-direct care or project activities.


  • Term used to describe a structured experience within an agency or in a community, overseen by a WSU faculty who is on the premises, is quickly and easily available, and has assessed the patient prior to the delegation of the duties.

Direct care practice experience

  • means a practice experience where there is a licensed RN or ARNP who provides guidance to nursing personnel and evaluation of nursing tasks is on the premises, is quickly and easily available, and has assessed the patient prior to the delegation of the duties. (See WAC 246-840-010)

DIVE (DNP Only, all tracks)

  • intensive experience to practice skills on campus (all throughout campus)
    • DIVE Series on campus

Experiential Learning

  • Term used to encompass learning activities that occur outside of the traditional lecture or didactic setting whereby knowledge is generated through the transformation of experience (e.g. “learning by doing”).  

IPE Sessions and Activities

  • Learning activities embedded in courses that require nursing students to learn with, from, and about the other health science disciplines that contribute to patient care.

Non-direct care practice experience

  • Means a practice experience where the licensed RN or ARNP or other licensed health care professional who provides guidance to nursing personnel and evaluation of nursing tasks is not on the premises but has given either written or oral instructions for the care and treatment of the patient and the patient has been assessed by the registered nurse prior to the delegation of duties. Or that the activities are not in the provision of patient care but are projects completed in the organization/setting. (See WAC 246-840-010)


  • Term used to describe a structured experience within an agency or in a community, overseen by a preceptor or mentor who has regular contact with an assigned WSU faculty but that faculty is not on premises.

Simulation (Sim Suite)

Skills Lab

  • Experiential learning that occurs with WSU faculty practicing skills necessary for the practice of nursing at the level appropriate to the degree program. Maybe scheduled in practice labs at each campus or conducted using technology-supported learning tools.
    • Non-direct care activity


Table B. PL-BSN Dress Code by Activity

Level Location / Activity WSU Scrubs General Scrubs Business Casual Casual Additional Notes
J1 PL-BSN Student Orientation X        
Classroom, Examination, VC     X1 X1  
Clinical X        
Simulation Suite, Skills Practice Lab X X      
IPE activities       
Other (Specify)          
J2 Classroom, Examination, VC     X1  X1   
Clinical X        
Simulation Suite, Skills Practice Lab X X      
IPE activities     X    
Other (Specify)          
S1 Classroom, Examination, VC     X1   X1  
Clinical X X X   Check with clinical faculty for site specific requirement
Simulation Suite, Skills Practice Lab X X      
Other (Specify)          
S2 Classroom, Examination, VC     X1  X1   
Clinical  X X  Check with clinical faculty for site specific requirement
Simulation Suite, Skills Practice Lab X X      
N430 Senior Practicum  X   X   Check with clinical faculty for site specific requirement
Other – Career Fair    X   Dress as though this is a job interview or in WSU scrubs
1 Classroom, VC: on days the class has a guest speaker, Business Casual attire remains as the acceptable dress code.


  • Students are required to always wear their Nursing Clinical ID Badges while engaging in any learning experience in the Simulation Suite, in the Skills Practice Lab, and during any clinical or practicum (no matter the location or required uniform/dress code).
  • Clinical agencies may have stricter guidelines and students must adhere to the expectations or policies of the clinical agency.

Approval Tracker

Policy Title:Dress Code/Appearance Standards
Policy Home:Academic Affairs, College of Nursing, Spokane
Policy Inception Date:08/2023
Policy Applicable Party:College of Nursing Students
Responsible Party, Level I: (to create/provide feedback/review)Academic Affairs
Responsible Party, Level II: (to publish)Academic Affairs
Responsible Party, Level III (to implement)Center for Student Excellence