Thinking about going as a 'naughty nurse' for Halloween? Why some say the costume ‘presents nurses as sex candy’

Nurses weigh in on why they're upset over Halloween costumes that depict their profession as hyper-sexy. (Photo: Getty Images)
Nurses weigh in on why they're upset over Halloween costumes that depict their profession as hyper-sexy. (Photo: Getty Images)

Nurses have been hailed as heroes during the coronavirus pandemic, and yet, come Halloween, many aren’t feeling so celebrated. Blame the prevalence of “sexy nurse” costumes in party stores and on social media, which are prompting nurses to speak out about what they see as degrading to their profession.

Each year, nurses take to social media to slam the costumes. Many say it's offensive that their jobs — which are life-saving and often involve not-so-sexy tasks like changing bed pans, administering IVs and performing wound care — are reduced to a sexual fetish.

Sandy Summers, a registered nurse who is the executive director of the nurse advocacy organization the Truth About Nursing, sees these “objectifying” outfits each year — and they never sit right with her.

“Nurses are propositioned, grabbed and sexually assaulted, in large part because the ‘naughty nurse’ image presents nurses as sex candy that hospitals have on offer, as if sexual services is something we provide," Summers tells Yahoo Life in an email. "We are not making this up: In 2010, a Dutch man fired his home health nurse because she wouldn’t provide him with sexual services.”

Tyler (who requested his last name not be used), a nurse who works with Team Halo and is an advisory panel member of the Truth About Nursing, tells Yahoo Life, “Nursing is an autonomous, science-based profession. When you put in a stereotype that makes it look naughty or sexualized, it takes away from that and makes us look like kind of a joke. It reinforces why there is nurse abuse, or disrespect towards the profession. On a broader scale, it contributes to things like underfunding of nursing research, education — which we are seeing [is necessary] in real time now.”

“Sexy” versions of workplace uniforms don’t end with nurses, but it’s worth pointing out that there are many more versions of sexy nurse costumes than there are sexy doctors. That, in itself, illustrates a larger problem with our women in medicine are perceived, according to Summers.

“Nurses have long been female, but women in medicine is relatively a new concept,” she explains. “Men who stereotype nurses want to control nurses, because they fear being in a hospital bed being controlled by nurses, who are the caregivers who are the most hands-on. The ‘naughty nurse’ stereotype allows men to be in control of nurses by objectifying and demeaning nurses.”

Both nurses agree that it’s still cool to dress up like a nurse for Halloween — provided you aren’t sporting a sexualized version of the costume.

“That’s what we want — people celebrating and thinking they look cool being what a regular nurse does,” says Summers. “I’m all for that.”

Tyler even has a suggestion for how to dress up like a nurse at your next Halloween party.

“If you really want to see what a nurse looks like," he suggests, "just have messy hair and put scrubs on. We’re at work.”