You might have made it through medical school wearing sweatpants to class -- but when you're a resident or a doctor, that doesn't cut it. Your patients expect you to be professional, so wear clothing that is safe, clean and appropriate for your position, suggests the American Medical Association.
Why Dress Matters
When you're wondering what to wear to work, consider patient preferences. In a study published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association" in 2013, patients' family members said they preferred attire that "branded" physicians, including the traditional white coat and scrubs. Respondents also said they preferred "professional" attire, but that didn't necessarily mean a business suit. The right attire helps to increase patient trust and comfort, the study suggested.
Defining Professional Attire
Dressing the part -- especially when you're new to the profession -- can help you gain respect and compliance from your patients. For women, professional attire typically includes button-down shirts with collars or tailored shirts of a quality fabric. Suits or suit jackets; well-tailored dresses; dressy skirts; and tailored pants are also acceptable. Wear closed-toe shoes to prevent contact with blood or body fluids.
Some hospitals and clinics set a dress code for staff members -- although physicians are often excluded. Still, that dress code could give you a good idea about what's appropriate in that particular workplace. For example, Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center prohibits recreational clothing, stretch pants, sleeveless shirts, low-cut shirts, dresses without backs, and sheer fabrics. It also mandates that piercings beyond the ears and tattoos be covered. Even if your facility doesn't have a code for physicians, you can still use the staff dress code as a guide about what not to wear.
As you get dressed before work, consider the safety of your patients and the threat of contamination from garments. Since 2007, the United Kingdom has advised a "bare below the elbows" approach. It advises doctors to avoid wearing long sleeves or wrist jewelry that might spread diseases from one patient to another. In the United States, the AMA recommends that physicians wear clothing that is appropriate to the work setting, and always clean. Balance professional attire, your comfort and the potential for cross-contamination when choosing clothing, suggests the authors of "Healthcare Personnel Attire in Non-Operating-Room Settings," published by the the University of Chicago Press in 2014.
- Journal of the American Medical Association: White Coat Hype: Branding Physicians With Professional Attire
- University of Utah Health Care: Dress Code Policy
- The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America: Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology: Healthcare Personnel Attire in Non-Operating-Room Settings
- American Medical News: AMA meeting: Hand-Washing Trumps Dress Codes in Preventing Infections
- Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center: Policy & Procedure
- Photo Credit nyul/iStock/Getty Images
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