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Learning from Failure—OB Scrub Story

ROANOKE, Va. — Many people learn better by listening to a story about others’ notable failures than in any other way. This story is about a good attempt to help out the OB department that totally failed.

I was working in Milwaukee at the time and I was approached the nurse manager of the OB/delivery/nursery department that wanted to change its uniforms into something new and fresh. It had to be unique in the system because it would also be a part of their security system for handling a newborn. Only staff dressed in their uniforms would be allowed to handle the babies.

During our first meeting I told her I had previous experience with such a project when I worked in Salt Lake City. The one thing all the staff in the same area agreed on was that they hated the current uniform. The director in this situation wanted to come up with an overwhelming consensus as to what the new uniform should be. Five years later when I left, the organization had still not selected a new uniform.

So, I advised the nurse manager to get a representative group of the staff together and let that committee decide. The goal should be to implement a new attire in a timely manner that was acceptable to a majority of the staff.

To this end I procured samples and catalogs from our prime vendor and all other companies that we could work with. Style samples were requested from each company in a full range, from small to 3X, as well as material samples.

After much deliberation, the committee selected a material from our prime vendor and a style of top and pant from another company. Our prime vendor said they would be happy to make that style out of their material, and because of the large size of the initial order the pricing was very reasonable. The staff’s expectation was that the material would be used to exactly duplicate the style and size ranges of the style samples that we had seen.

After waiting for what to them seemed like an eternity, the finished product finally arrived. It was washed by the laundry and delivered to the anxious staff.

That is when the real problem came to light.

The style they liked was made by the same vendor that they had been wearing, and they expected that a medium scrub in the new style would be the same size as a medium scrub in the old style. Unfortunately the company had chosen to use their normal sizing ranges for the product instead of using the size ranges from the samples.

The end result was that women who normally wore a medium had to wear a large. Women who normally wore a 3X size found that they could not fit into the current size range at all.

The staff was very upset and unhappy with the scrubs and demanded a meeting with the company representative immediately. The poor company representative got to listen to over an hour of serious complaining by the staff, and then the staff took their complaints to administration.

Fortunately I had all my documentation preserved and was able to show the nursing staff, purchasing and administration that the order was properly placed and the notes detailed that sizing should be as the samples from the other company. 

The prime vendor agreed to replace the scrubs that had been improperly sized with scrubs of the proper size at no cost to our company. During the time it took to remake the scrubs, the nursing staff refused to wear the new, improperly sized scrubs and went back to wearing their old ones.

What should have been a great win for the nurse manager, administration and the laundry turned out to be a less-than-happy experience. What I learned from this experience is that when selecting a new line of scrubs, one must determine at the start what is the most important factor, style or material.

If style is the most important factor, then find the style you like best and limit your material selection to those that the company regularly stocks. If material or print is the most important factor, then find the material you like best and choose a style from that company.

Do not listen to the salesman who says we can duplicate that style without any problems. They may be able to do so easily on a large initial order but then may have problems on smaller replacement orders. Make things easy on yourself and your vendor by sticking to stock styles and fabrics.            

Find more columns by Eric Frederick by clicking HERE.

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