Nurse Invents Scrubs With Stethoscope Holder

5 Min Read Published June 5, 2023
Nurse Invents Scrubs With Stethoscope Holder

Images via Kathryn Dickson

Kathryn Dickson’s road to becoming a nurse began as all great stories do: with a Fisher Price pretend doctor’s kit in kindergarten. 

Dickson, now an RN, DNP, FNP-C, ENP-C, is the CEO and founder of OliveUs Apparel in San Diego. She tells that her medical aspirations started with her Fisher Price stethoscope before she progressed to owning a real first aid kit in first grade. Her journey didn’t stop there though—by high school, she was volunteering weekly at the local hospital and asking family friends who were doctors to take her on rounds as they visited patients.

“Nursing was a calling for me from my earliest memories,” Dickson says. 

As a cardiology nurse, emergency nurse practitioner, professor at the University of San Diego, and now business founder and entrepreneur, Dickson has seen her nursing career grow and change throughout the years—and now, she’s sharing what that journey has looked like and how she was inspired to start a line of scrubs specifically designed to make wearing a stethoscope more comfortable. 

>> Click to See the Ultimate List of Master’s Degrees in Nursing

Inspiration Strikes

OliveUs Apparel is a line of scrubs that have a built-in stethoscope holder on the outer waistband of the scrubs so that instead of nurses throwing their stethoscopes around their necks, they can safely tuck them away and still have them readily available at a moment’s notice. 

Dickson explains that she was inspired to create her scrub line after developing a rash on her neck and realizing it was from wearing her own stethoscope at work. “It became very obvious to me at that moment that wearing a stethoscope around your neck was a workplace hazard,” she tells 

After her initial lightbulb moment, Dickson adds that she also saw other problems with nurses wearing stethoscopes around their necks, like the pressure on your neck and shoulders, introducing germs to your neck and face area, the potential choking hazard, or the stethoscopes piling up in the lost and found. 

“Along with that, I could never find scrubs that I felt comfortable in,” she notes. “I was constantly altering my scrubs and looking for ways to make them fit better. That's when I started sketching out designs.”

Starting a Business During COVID

Those initial sketches soon evolved into Dickson sewing her own scrub prototype on her grandmother’s sewing machine. The only problem? She was launching a brand-new business smack-dab in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. 

Dickson had just graduated from her emergency medicine doctoral program and started her “dream job” as an ED NP when COVID first hit. “It was crazy,” says Dickson. She began seeing patients outside in the COVID tents the hospital set up and was working intense hours as she and her fellow team members tried to figure out the best ways to treat the horribly sick patients that flooded their facility. 

“Watching the first round of COVID X-rays worsen quickly, intubating the first cases, and then being short-staffed due to our own people quitting or being sick was sad,” she recalls. “At the same time, we were isolated and praying we would not get COVID ourselves. On top of that, I decided to start my own business!” 

OliveUs scrubs are designed with a stethoscope holder on the waistband, which Dickson looks deceptively simple because it’s actually incredibly functional: it holds the stethoscope firmly but is also easy to retrieve and put back, balances the weight evenly across your hips to reduce fatigue, is made with four-way anti-microbial stretch fabric that stays in place on your chest, hips, and backside, and lots of extra storage pockets. 

“There is a spot for every essential: stethoscope, phone, scissors, ID badge, credit card, and personal IDs,” she describes. “The style is very flattering with options for different body shapes from tuckable to untuck on the top, and straight leg to joggers on the bottom, all in the fabric that is ideal for a body in motion.”

And although Dickson admits that the process of starting a business has been “full of surprises,” she’s also received a lot of support along the way, from other business owners and mentors. Of course, that’s not to say it hasn’t taken a tremendous amount of work on her part as well—as the sole owner of OliveUs Apparel and a frontline worker through the pandemic, she worked back-to-back hospital shifts, slept very little, and woke up at 2 AM five days a week to take manufacturing calls with people on the other side of the world. Heck, she even answered the questions for this profile after working a 12-hour shift. 

“It was all-consuming but also exciting,” she says. “When I started this company, I had a great support team but I also felt fairly alone in the journey...Now, I have a massive network of incredibly talented humans with a clear sense of direction. The last three and a half years have been a true rollercoaster ride.” 

Extending an Olive Branch for Nurses

Fortunately, Dickson has already seen success since launching her business in November of 2022—even without any marketing budget, she’s almost sold out of her women’s inventory with hundreds of requests for more inventory and has shipped scrubs all over the U.S. and even overseas. “Business has been terrific,” Dickson says, adding that she’s currently working on the next production run of scrubs to introduce new colors and minor style changes. 

“I had a very fun 'aha' moment recently when I saw a nurse passing in the hall at work, whom I do not know, wearing OliveUs scrubs,” Dickson shares. “ I said, 'Nice scrubs!' and she said she loved them and heard a nurse at the hospital made them…that made it all very real for me.”

She also shares that her business name comes from something very personal: as a kid who happened to adore olives and also had a bit of a temper, Dickson explains that her parents used to pop an olive in her mouth whenever she was upset and it would instantly calm her down.

“It's weird, I know,” she laughs. 

Weird or not, it was also effective and when the family eventually moved from Michigan to California, Dickson’s parents planted an olive tree for their daughter in front of their new home. “ It's a beautiful tree with multiple trunks and soft peaceful green leaves,” Dickson says. 

And when she learned that not only are olives delicious—“What's there not to love about an olive?” she notes—but they’re also a sign of peace, Dickson immediately knew the beloved fruit was the perfect inspiration for her company name. 

“I could not think of a better symbol for my company,” she explains: “It allows a play on the words to signal the spirit of what I want these scrubs to be: they are for 'all of us' medical professionals. They recognize that we are a community and that in our care, we offer peace and comfort, and that the medical community has multiple branches, colors, and sizes.”   

>>Use code: nurseorg for 10% off your next order of OliveUs scrubs!

Be sure to follow OliveUs on Instagram and TikTok to learn more or pick up your own pair of stethoscope-savvy scrubs on the company’s website

Chaunie Brusie
Chaunie Brusie Contributor

Chaunie Brusie, BSN, RN is a nurse-turned-writer with experience in critical care, long-term care, and labor and delivery. Her work has appeared everywhere from Glamor to The New York Times to The Washington Post. Chaunie lives with her husband and five kids in the middle of a hay field in Michigan and you can find more of her work here

Read More From Chaunie
Go to the top of page