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Making a difference, one used scrub at a time
Jun 10, 2019, By: Nancy Esopenko
nurses looking at uniforms
Photo by Jody Vaughan RN, BScN, MEd, NCBNP Nursing Instructor at the College of New Caledonia, Prince George, BC.
The success of this initiative is due to the generous donations received from our community, as well as support from our institution and students, whether they purchase uniforms or volunteer. Pictured here (from left to right): nursing students Karissa Rutherford, Dorian Pierre, Cassandra Erb, Nancy Esopenko (instructor) and Elaine Weiland.

Lessons Learned

  • Offering access to gently used scrubs removes a significant financial strain from some students.
  • The community support for future health sciences professionals is the cornerstone to success, the generous ongoing donations allow the program to continue offering the sales and bursaries.
  • Watching the students grow into responsible, accountable, community-minded, positive role models is the greatest reward.

Looked in your closet lately? Do you have scrubs that you rarely use or that no longer fit? What if I tell you those scrubs can help fund a future health professional’s education? Would you donate them?

Students enrolled in post-secondary education face several financial barriers. To help them navigate the expense of uniforms or scrubs, a group of nursing instructors at New Caledonia College in Prince George, BC started the Making a Difference Bursary. The bursary raises money by collecting gently used scrubs from health professionals in our community and selling them to health sciences students.

It all started in 2011 when I noticed several students wearing the same scrubs, multiple days in a row, to labs and clinical shifts. I knew I had several sets of scrubs in my closet, and pondered how I might get them into the hands of students without purposefully selecting those I thought needed them. After discussing this with my co-workers in education and practice, we decided to collect gently used scrubs from the health professionals in the community, starting with ourselves. Then we would sell the scrubs for a small fee to students, and all proceeds would go toward a bursary.

The idea began small and has grown over the years. To date we have raised over $10 000, selling scrubs at $5 each. That’s over 2000 scrubs benefitting students. The Making a Difference Scrubs Bursary has so far funded 37 bursaries of $250 each to health sciences students. It is a double bonus for students: they get uniforms for a fraction of the cost, and they can also apply for the bursary. Both help offset the cost of their education. In addition, all student volunteers who help with the sale receive a free top or bottom, plus a letter of volunteerism for their portfolio.

The criteria for the Making a Difference Scrubs Bursary extend beyond financial need, current program enrolment, and satisfactory academic standing. While these basic criteria are required, selection of the recipients is based on their demonstrating the skills and attributes we want to promote in the next generation of health professionals. Applicants are screened and selected by faculty based on students’ professionalism, leadership, and positive attitude, along with their contributions to their profession.

The success of this initiative is due to the generous donations received from our community, as well as support from our institution and students, whether they purchase uniforms or volunteer. Donors can reduce, reuse, and recycle their gently used scrubs while supporting the next generation of health sciences professionals.

An unexpected benefit of this initiative is increased interdisciplinary awareness and collaboration among students enrolled in diverse health sciences programs. Student volunteers teach one another about their program and future profession.

To start your own Making a Difference Bursary, simply follow the pointers in the table. The benefits and rewards far surpass the effort required to establish and run the sales. Watching the students grow into responsible, accountable, community-minded, positive role models is the greatest reward. Being able to support them with economical uniform choices, and help offset the cost of their education via the bursary, is what keeps me doing this year after year.

Step-by-step guide for starting a Making a Difference bursary

6 months prior to first sale – meet with Financial Aid Department at your institution to complete required forms and other paperwork, and for institutional support. Meet with Finance Department to set up budget code for bursary account. NOTE: Our scrubs sale was held to fund the bursaries for the following academic year. For example, we started the sales in 2011, with the first bursaries being awarded in 2012. This allows time to accumulate sufficient funds in the bursary account and to determine how many bursaries to award and the bursary denominations.

3–6 months prior to first sale – meet with Communications or Media Services Department to work on media release, posters, leave-behinds, logo, social media.

2–3 months before first sale – meet with community stakeholders to determine uniform donation sites/bin locations.

2 months before sale – arrange printing of posters and leave-behinds (to accompany donation bins); meet with Communications Department to arrange media release to promote donations.

6 weeks before sale – drop off donation bins, leave-behinds to advertise sale; issue social media posts and initial media release soliciting donations. Suggestion: Accept donations over 3–4 weeks; arrange space at your institution in a common area. A sale usually requires 10 tables, 4 chairs, a debit machine, float money, a cash box, and bags.

4 weeks before sale – spread the word among students, faculty, and members of the interdisciplinary team. Send out request for volunteers (students or faculty) to help with scrub sorting and sale day set-up/clean-up (usually in 1-hour blocks of volunteer time).

2 weeks before sale – if donations are slow, ask the Communications Department to mount another media blitz to raise awareness. Collect donations weekly from each site.

1 week before sale – collect all donation bins. Sort donations (suggestion: fold by size in bins to make setting up for sale day more efficient). Confirm that sufficient volunteers will be available. Confirm float and debit machine with Finance Department. Print letters of volunteerism for all student volunteers. Print signs to identify scrub sizes.

Sale day – set up tables (suggestion: place two tables together for each size category—XS/S; M; L; XL and plus sizes). Separate tables for payment and bagging area. Pick up float and debit machine. Host sale with student volunteers. Every volunteer gets a letter for their portfolio and a free scrub top or bottom. Volunteers to interact with all shoppers—advise that everything is $5; cash, debit, credit payment options available; tables sorted by sizes, etc. At end of sale, store extra scrubs by size in bins for next sale. Tally funds, make deposit via Finance Department, and keep track of totals.

Prepare for second sale – usually held 3–6 months after initial sale to establish sufficient funds for the bursary account. Keeping track of funds obtained during one academic year will fund bursaries for the next academic year/cycle.

Awarding first bursaries – per Financial Aid Department, awards will be timed with institution. Develop description for awards based on financial need, current program enrolment, and academic standing. Include other elements for selection criteria that are most important to your program or profession. Students will apply via your institution’s financial aid process. Faculty to review applicants to determine the best fit based on all criteria.

Repeat the cycle – with each sale the process becomes easier, and every department is more familiar with its roles and responsibilities.

Students receive awards – this is the best part of the journey.

Nancy Esopenko RN, BScN, MN is a nursing instructor in the Northern Collaborative Baccalaureate Nursing Program (NCBNP) at the College of New Caledonia in Prince George, BC.


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