For decades, nurses wore white and through their toil earned the reputation of being angels without wings.

From next year, SingHealth will be going back to an all-white uniform across its 11 institutions, ditching the present uniforms that come in different colours.

This is the first change in its nurses' uniforms in a decade.

Since 2007, uniforms for SingHealth nurses were in different hues depending on their rank and institution, and reflecting each institution's corporate identity. For instance, a nurse clinician at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) would wear green while her counterpart at the Singapore National Eye Centre would be in dark blue. In general, staff nurses wore white.

The change was announced in conjunction with SingHealth's annual Nurses' Day celebrations yesterday which Senior Minister of State for Health and Transport Lam Pin Min attended. SingHealth is the biggest health cluster here with 12,000 nurses across different care settings. It is the only cluster to implement this change.

As part of the celebrations, SingHealth gave awards to 47 nurses.

The current uniforms are confusing for patients, who sometimes mix up doctors and nurses, especially in the emergency departments.

Said Ms Smitha Jeet Kaur, 26, a staff nurse at SGH's Department of Emergency Medicine: "Nurses working in this department wear light blue scrubs, which are similar to what doctors wear. Patients cannot tell them apart and are not sure who to look for when they encounter difficulties. This happens very frequently, especially when it's a male nurse and they think he's a doctor."

Dr Tracy Carol Ayre, group chief nurse of SingHealth, said: "We received feedback from patients that it can be confusing when they see nurses in different uniforms caring for them, and that they intuitively associate the colour white with the nursing profession."

This also happens when patient navigators move with patients from the hospitals to community care, confusing patients there.

Dr Ayre said: "As our population ages and patients have complex, multiple chronic conditions, it is increasingly common for our nurses to work across institutions and in the community."

The nurse's rank on the new uniform will be designated by different coloured strips.

Ms Kaur said: "The material has also changed such that it is more comfortable and soft, so it's easier to move about. The old one was heavier on the shoulders and more body-fitting."

The new uniform will also bear the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre's logo.

Professor Ivy Ng, group chief executive officer of SingHealth, said: "Beyond clinical care, our nurses also actively pursue research, care innovation and provide inter-professional training and education."

The new uniform will be rolled out from next year.