The nurse community the world over is up in arms after Jessica Anderson, a nurse at Royal London Hospital in the UK, was denied the Guinness World Record for winning fastest nurse category award in the London Marathon as she was not wearing a skirt.
According to a report in Washington Post, Anderson, who has been a nurse at RLH for seven years, had been aiming to become the fastest woman runner to finish the marathon in a nurse’s uniform. Aided with moths of training, Anderson managed to finish the race in 3 hours 8 minutes and 22 seconds.
However, speed wasn’t enough for Anderson, who was denied the record as she ran th race in her in her regular scrubs (navy blue top and trouser set) instead of a skirt and pinafores typical of nurses.
As per the Guinness World Record guidelines, to win the fastest nurse race, Anderson had to be dressed in a ‘traditional’ nurse’s uniform which must include a “white or blue dress, pinafore apron and white cap". Definitely not pants.
Anderson, who had applied for the record in February, was shocked to hear from Guinness that her scrubs, the uniform she actually worked in as a nurse, did not qualify as it was too close to a doctor’s uniform. (Guinness also has a separate record for the fastest doctor to run a marathon and as per their response, Anderson’s costume was more suited for candidates of that race).
Further responding to Anderson, Guinness said that the same rules about ‘traditional’ clothing applied to other categories such as fastest chef or fastest scout, stating that candidates in these categories also had to dress according to older versions of the costumes and not current day variants.
However, many took an issue with this explanation, tagging Guinness’s qualifying criteria regarding dress as sexist and stereotypical. Though Guinness clarified that even a male nurse attempting to win the fastest runner in nurse’s uniform would have to wear a dress, many scoffed at the thought of a male nurse being made to wear a dress to work or for the purposes of a winning a race.
Andesron, who decided to run the marathon anyway in April despite her application being rejected by Guinness, has become the inspiration for a social media movement against stereotyping of nurses, especially the nurse’s uniform which for long has been victim to unnecessary sexualisation. The ‘sexy nurse’ is a popular trope in pin-up posters from previous decades, as well as Hollywood films of the 60s and 70s.
The incident has caused outrage on social media. Many felt that Guinness’s guidelines were regressive and in a way implied that nursing was just a woman’s job while doctors (who got to wore pants) were male. The rule also reminds the world of the ways in which gender roles have changed at work. No longer are women nurses required to mark their gender (and social status) with a dress.
"Guinness World Record (GWR) rules stipulate that a nurse’s uniform must include a blue or white dress, a white pinafore apron and a traditional white nurse’s cap. "Nurse in trousers told her London Marathon record would not count https://t.co/vp6862RcIa
— Mar Dixon (@MarDixon) May 5, 2019
Proud of @Janderzzz over £2k raised #LondonMarathon2019 and now taking on outdated views @GWR #WhatNursesWear #MenAreNursesToo @RoyalLondonHosp https://t.co/pR2hhUJvFn— Barts Health (@NHSBartsHealth) May 4, 2019
Congratulations on your achievement of completing the marathon and in a time that beats the previous WR as a nurse. I understand that GWR are not acknowledging your record because you wasn't in a nurses dress. Looking at the old record it says a "nurses uniform" 1/2— Regulus Star (@Kck259) May 5, 2019
2/2 I would class a nurses uniform as any nurses uniform that is either sold as or worn as in a nursing environment. I cannot see anything on the previous record that would specify a dress only. Treasure your good memories for the day and forget about the rest
— Regulus Star (@Kck259) May 5, 2019
I feel like we’ve been transported to the set of a 1960 Carry On film. All NHS nurses, male or female wear trousers, whether as part of a scrubs set, or as the ‘national uniform’. I last wore a dress and cap to work in the late 1980s.— Jane Munro (@JaneMunro59) May 5, 2019
As a male nurse, would I also have to run in a dress?— Warren Lodge (@warrenkirtlodge) May 5, 2019
A dress does not make a nurse. Her qualifications do.— Charrow (@charrow0) May 5, 2019
In fact, as a response to Guinness’s archaic dress code, women nurses on social media have started uploading photos of themselves in their non-dressy uniforms under the hashtag #WhatNursesWear.
Following @GWR’s decision not to recognise @Janderzzz outstanding achievement as her nursing uniform didn’t match their specifications - a dress - please share a selfie wearing your uniform showing #WhatNursesWearLet’s change the archaic view #StNProject https://t.co/shwoGOtdoW— The Student Nurse Project (@StNurseProject) May 4, 2019
@GWR I’m in uniform with 2 #futurenurses we are dressed in uniform a bit like @Janderzzz who ran the London marathon… this is what RNs look like.. please reconsider your position pic.twitter.com/jIXVFx0PAA— Ruth May (@RMayNurseDir) May 4, 2019
My uniform (tunic&trousers) vs what I wore on a community placement. At my university a dress isn’t an option! I prefer tunic and trousers personally but no matter what I wear I am still a student nurse. pic.twitter.com/7X3Ye7KLCT— Georgie Day (@DayGeorgie) May 5, 2019
Following @RMayNurseDir and in solidarity with the fantastic @janderzzz I’ve put my uniform on. This is what modern day nurses who wear uinforms look like @GWR some rules are just made to be broken. pic.twitter.com/OwhhUyLo1F— charlotte mcardle RN (@charlottemcardl) May 4, 2019
After the backlash, Guinness, in an statement to the Post, agreed that the category was in need of a review. “Inclusiveness and respect are values that Guinness World Records holds extremely dear and while we always need to ensure we can differentiate between categories, it is quite clear that this record title is long over due". The organizers said that a review will soon be conducted on a priority basis.