The main reason nurses wear uniforms is to display a unified, professional look to patients. Wearing uniforms also has a long tradition, and allows nurses to be spotted or identified easily in a crowded place, so that patients or other interested parties can easily recognize a nurse when they need one.
Most hospitals and other health care facilities require their nurses to wear uniforms of some kind while on duty, as part of an effort to maintain a professional image. There are many health professionals working in a hospital setting, and uniforms help identify various workers. Ideally, uniforms stand for consistency and uniformity.
Nursing uniforms have changed over the decades. Traditionally, they are white and include a hat. Today, many nurses wear a cloth variation of surgical "scrubs," often in bright colors or patterns, with large pockets to carry commonly-used medical supplies. For example, nurses who deal with intravenous lines may carry surgical tape, because they use it frequently.
In modern hospitals, hats are rare. Comfortable shoes are not (hospital nurses do a great deal of walking). A lab coat, paper face mask, disposable gloves, stethoscope, clip board, cell phone, portable radio and hospital credentials are common accessories, though not part of a proper uniform.
Nurses working in some specialized fields, such as rescue units, trauma teams or surgical wards, may wear special uniforms that are uniquely suited to the jobs they perform.