Jessica Anderson was denied a Guinness World Record because she wore scrubs to run the London Marathon rather than a dress – and now other nurses are showing their support.
As anyone who has been inside a UK hospital in the last 10 years will no doubt already know, the modern nursing uniform rarely includes a dress.
However, Guinness World Records (GWR) states that a dress and hat must be worn to qualify for the record of fastest marathon in a nurse’s uniform – something which nurse Jessica Anderson found out the hard way when she ran the 2019 London Marathon in her Royal London Hospital uniform.
Anderson beat the current record – of three hours, eight minutes and 54 seconds - by 22 seconds.
That wasn’t enough to make her a record breaker, however, as the GWR genuinely told Anderson that the uniform she wears to work every single day as a hospital nurse “does not comply with their ‘criteria’ of what a nurse wears”. As an official explained to her: “For the purposes of this record, the nurse’s uniform must include: a blue or white nurse dress, a white pinafore apron, a traditional white nurse’s cap. Tights are optional.”
Speaking with Runner’s World about the “outdated and sexist decision”, Anderson revealed that she was “quite taken aback” when she received GWR’s response to her record-shattering run.
“I was quite taken aback when I read that they’d rejected my application and I did email them to ask them to reconsider but they said no,” she said.
“I get that it’s supposed to be a fun thing but their definition is just so outdated. Some of the nurses I work with do wear dresses but mostly we wear scrubs or a tunic and trousers.”
“I’ve certainly never seen a male nurse wearing a dress to work.”
Anderson added: “I’m sure Guinness World Records don’t intend to cause offence but it would be nice if they decided to revise their criteria instead of reinforcing old gender stereotypes.”
While GWR has yet to acknowledge that almost all nurses wear scrubs nowadays – and that nursing is a modern profession that is open to both men and women – Anderson has since found a wealth of support within the nursing community.
Using the hashtag #WhatNursesWear, one shared a photo of herself in scrubs to Twitter and wrote: “My pinafore and white cap is in the wash, so this will have to do.”
“I save lives no matter the uniform I’m wearing. On duty or day off. I’m a proud professional nurse,” added another.
Another noted: “My son will be mortified to learn that after going through three years of university, ending in debt of over sixty thousand pounds, he can’t be a proper nurse unless he wears a skirt or a dress.”
And one more called for GWR to “rethink your stance on this, especially now the chief nursing officer has called you out”.
One, sharing a photo of herself with two small children in mini nurse’s uniforms, wrote: “I’m in uniform with two #futurenurses we are dressed in uniform a bit like @Janderzzz who ran the London marathon…
“This is what real nurses look like. Please reconsider your position.”
“The #haematology nursing @ImperialNHS team always ready to go the distance in trousers #whatnurseswear @GWR Professional and #proud!” added Karen Bradley, sharing a group photo from the Imperial NHS team.
Billy Hokinson also shared a selfie, noting: “I’ve never worn a dress, at least not to work!”
He was joined by fellow nurse Adrian Smith, who similarly pointed out that he wears scrubs to work every day.
And army nurses Adam Hughes and Martyn Walsh added that the ruling was “outrageous” and that they’d “look bloody silly in a dress.”
In a statement released over the weekend, GWR has now said: “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 overdue a review, which we will conduct as a priority in the coming days.”
One good thing has come from the public outcry, though. Anderson had set up a fundraiser ahead of her marathon run for Barts Charity to “support the work of the wonderful staff on the Acute Admissions Unit at the Royal London Hospital where I have worked for nearly seven years”.
Her aim was to raise £500. The extra publicity, though, has seen her smash her target: the total is currently sat at £5,121, which is 1024% more than she ever hoped to raise. And we imagine that number will only keep climbing, too.
“We have previously used the charity fund to buy equipment for the ward such as dementia friendly clocks and signage, a bladder scanner and some furnishings for the staff room and day rooms,” says Anderson. We imagine they will be able to buy a lot more for the ACU now!