Do clothes make the doctor?

Dr Anushka Reddy Marri                                                                                            RIMS, Adilabad


Suits, Scrubs or Slacks?What is the ideal attire for a doctor on duty? Personally, I believe that a doctor’s worth cannot be made from what he/she chooses to wear. Knowledge does not increase/decrease with the length or price of a piece of clothing. But, that is not how the patients seem to perceive it. To shine light on this topic, a few studies were conducted to understand the impact of a physician’s attire on the patient’s confidence and trust.

A cross-sectional descriptive study was conducted using survey methodology of patients and visitors in the waiting room of an internal medicine outpatient clinic. Respondents completed a written survey after reviewing pictures of physicians in four different dress styles. They were asked questions related to their preference for physician dress as well as their trust and willingness to discuss sensitive issues.

On all questions regarding physician dress style preferences, respondents significantly favored the professional attire with white followed by surgical scrubs, business dress and casual dress. Respondents also reported that they were significantly more willing to share their social, sexual, and psychological problems with the physician who is professionally dressed. Female physicians’ dress appeared to be significantly more important to respondents than male physicians’ dress. It was thereby concluded that wearing professional dress (ie, a white coat with more formal attire) while providing patient care by physicians may favorably influence trust and confidence-building in the medical encounter1

A study was conducted to find out the importance of attire in different settings at work by the University of Michigan health care team. In general, the study finds, people prefer their physicians dress on the formal side — and definitely not in casual wear. Doctors of either gender in suits, or a white coat, are more likely to inspire trust and confidence. But fashion takes a back seat when it comes to emergency, surgical or critical care, where data show clothes don’t matter as much — and patients may even prefer to see doctors in scrubs.Currently, the team is preparing to launch their own international study of the impact of physician clothing choices, under the name “Targeting Attire to Improve Likelihood of Rapport” or TAILOR. They’ll work to quantify how patients’ views of physicians change based on what they’re wearing, and where they’re providing care. The team will also evaluate how attire might affect patients’ trust in what that doctor says or recommends2.

A national, cross-sectional study to examine patient perceptions, expectations and preferences regarding physicians dress across 10 academic hospitals in the USA was organized It was concluded that patients have important expectations and perceptions for physician dress that vary by context and region. Nuanced policies addressing physician dress code to improve patient satisfaction appear important.3

As the above studies suggest, Professional attire seems to be a very important factor that dictates the perception of a doctor by the patient. Almost all the studies conclude that a white coat ensures more engagement and trust. However, studies focusing on what is worn inside the coat aren’t available with significant data and valid conclusions.




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