Empowering Nurses at the Bedside and in Business

Nurse Fired For Wearing Hospital Scrubs Gets His Job Back


Not too long ago I wrote about a nurse, Cliff Willmeng, R.N., who was terminated from his emergency room position for refusing to wear his own personal scrubs while working.

Instead, he insisted on wearing hospital issued scrubs which he could leave at the facility to disinfect and clean rather than risking his family’s health by bringing home possibly COVID contaminated scrubs. He was terminated from his job.  Mr. Willmeng filed a grievance with his union saying the hospital system’s uniform code policy violated standard nursing practices.

The Minnesota State Board of Nursing filed a charge against him which has since been dropped.

In the claim against Allina, the hospital system that fired him for not wearing his own scrubs and, instead, donning scrubs from the hospital.

The Arbitrator in the matter noted that Mr. Willmeng believed in good faith that laundering his possibly contaminated personal scrubs at home could jeopardize his health as well as that of his family.

Also, the Arbitrator noted that Allina lacked the grounds to terminate Mr. Willmeng, adding that some remedy short of discharge would be more appropriate in this matter.

Mr. Willmeng, according to the Arbitrator, should be reinstated in his job but that Allina does not owe him back pay.  Allina has 90 days to appeal the Arbitrator’s decision on this particular issue.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Board of Nursing closed the matter without charges but noted that it is a nurse’s responsibility to come dressed in a professional manner.  However, his actions did not rise to the level of discipline.

The Board is referring to the fact that Mr. Willmeng was ordered on several occasions to not wear hospital scrubs but to wear his own, yet he insisted on donning the hospital garb to ensure safety for himself, his family, and his patients.

Mr. Willmeng is thrilled to be back at work and continuing to treat his patients.

There is little wonder why nurses are leaving the profession when faced with inconsistent and questionable policies developed during the pandemic such as that of Allina.

Reflecting on Mr. Willmeng’s conflict, it is worth noting that when you advocate for change, especially for yourself, be sure to do so in the appropriate manner so you can avoid ramifications such as those Mr. Willmeng came to face.


  1. Elizabeth

    I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Willmeng! As an RN who graduated from The University of Texas School of Nursing system over 40 years ago, we were taught how inappropriate it was to wear personal scrubs outside the clinical setting. Consider the reason for scrubs is to avoid bringing outside germs to the patients and clinical environment and not carry hospital organisms back home or into society.

    I often see medical personnel in scrubs in the grocery store, picking up kids at day care, running errands and think how very rude, ignorant and contaminated, knowing those medical people have been in contact with contaminated items, infection and bodily fluids. When and why did it ever become socially acceptable to wear scrubs in public or outside the clinical setting? Perhaps hospitals were suffering losses from theft or high costs for replacement and laundry of scrubs and amended to allow personal scrubs.

    I remember going to work in civilian clothing and changing into clean scrubs to work in ICUs, maternal-child units or ERs. We changed out of scrubs and back to civilian clothes before leaving, always letting the hospital laundry the scrubs at very high temps in industrial machines with strong soaps. It just makes sense.

    Why does the medical profession now think it’s appropriate to wear scrubs in public? It is not! Does a judge wear his or her robe outside the courtroom and strut around socially? Do waitstaff wear aprons around town? Do firemen wear their hazard suits full of chemical contaminants while shopping or walking dogs? Nurses and intelligent medical personnel should know better and be advocates for change in this area.

    My praise for Mr. Willmeng in this matter! He’s the kind of nurse I’d want at my beside or on my team.

  2. Bibiana Cloonan

    I found this very interesting. In my most recent workplace in northern Virginia, all staff caring for Covid patients were given daily scrubs to change into for the shift from Mid March 2020. It’s so sad that hospitals like this nurses would rather loose a good nurse than make him feel safe.

  3. Dee

    Thank you for sharing. I was happy to see the outcome though I was hopping for him to get back pay. I admire his stamina to stand up for his beliefs. One that many of us had especially in the beginning when much wasn’t known about the virus. We are trained to advocate for our patients and to follow policies, but the system many times forget to include the staff as beneficiaries; reason why I refuse to live a lifestyle solely dependent on or above my wages that leaves no room for freedom to choose my next step.

  4. Sabrina

    I wore my own scubs antibacterial and Tommy Copper knee high and Tommy Copper long sleeve t shirts for protection under hospital scrubs. One of the hospital systems I contracted in Oscher In NOLA as ER RN gave every employee a copper mask. Honor Health in Scottsdale Phoenix AZ also while there not only provided scrubs, but respirators. I had my own, but they wanted to make sure and theirs was compatible with mine so I worn there’s while on assignment. Other hospitals in Richmond VA and Maryland were not as accomodating. We have to stand up regardless of consequences.

  5. Ms Nursey

    He also filed a law suit wrongful termination against the hospital. This is a perfect example of how Boards take any complaint to rig that , to get an “investigation’ aka “intimidation” against the nurse.
    The public was watching how this BON was going to handle this and why they took this matter and the outcome. Minn acting like the wild wild west AZ in this respect.
    This should send a bigger message , a BON treating a front line nurse like this during a covid epidemic , nurses are just disposable . Until the abuse of power of the BON is taken away , holding them responsible , protecting a hospital , and not their mandate this will continue.

  6. Denny

    Not being a medical profession, I ask: would a med/surg nurse, involved in a number of different surgeries during a typical work day, have to bring from home a different set of scrubs for each surgery?
    Or would just wearing one set suffice to be used in all operations that day?
    Just curious.

  7. Yvette

    To think that the hospital was more concerned about something so trivial instead of having a nurse available to take care of their customers shows ignorance and very demeaning to our profession, especially in this pandemic. I would like to think management would show professionalism and focus on more important issues. It’s a shame they were so thoughtless in regards to their employees health. They expect nurses and other care givers to give good customer service but no respect and understanding for the very people putting themselves in harm’s way everyday. For the 30 yrs I’ve been nursing I’ve seen less and less patient care given and brutality less concern for any sort of nursing retention which was shown in their actions of firing this guy, very pathetic.

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