Business & Finance Medical Practice

Does The Way a Doctor Dress matter?

Author: Dr. Rohini R

In a world where patients have tbe liberty and power to choose, does appearance matter?

Do patients care about what how doctors dress? In short, YES YES and YES!

Healthcare being a service industry, patient satisfaction is important. For patients, physician attire is an important part of it. Studies have proven that patients appear to care about their doctor’s attire. Patients may not always be able to choose their doctor, for example in he case of an emergency. However, when they can choose (which is most of the time), doctors should try to make sure that their attire reflects a certain level of professionalism and be mindful of patients’ preferences. This applies to every industry, it is important to dress according to one’s industry. Attire is an important but easily modifiable component of the patient care experience.

How Do Patients Want Doctors To Dress?

Several studies have been conducted across the world. A study was conducted interviewing over 4,000 patients in the US by showing pictures of male and female doctors in seven different forms of attire, and to imagine them in both inpatient and outpatient clinical settings.

The options provided to the patients were: 

  • Casual: Short-sleeved collared shirt and jeans with tennis shoes, with or without white coat
  • Scrubs: Blue short-sleeved scrub top and pants, with or without white coat
  • Formal: Light blue long-sleeved dress shirt and navy-blue suit pants, with or without white coat, with black leather shoes with one-inch heels for women and black leather shoes for men, and a dark blue tie for men
  • Business suit: Navy-blue jacket and pants with the same dress shirt, tie and shoes as in the “formal” option, without white coat

The results:

The highest score: Formal attire with a white coat got the highest score – 62% of patients voted for this being their preferred choice of attire across all specialties. This was followed by scrubs with a white coat, and finally formal attire without a white coat.

The lowest scores: The least voted attires were scrubs alone, as well as causal clothes (even on weekends). When patients were asked about emergency physicians and surgeons, scrubs alone got 34 % of the vote, followed by scrubs with a white coat with 23 %.

Of course there are variations based on patient’s region, culture and age, but these are the overall results.

Research shows that appearance strongly influences other people’s perception of a person’s financial success, authority, trustworthiness, intelligence and suitability for hire or promotion. Personal appearance, influences a person’s chances for career advancement. The way you dress plays a significant role in appearance. 

psychological concept called “halo effect” has strong ties to beauty. Experiments have shown that attractive people are considered as more sociable, intelligent, dominant, warm, stable, mentally healthy and socially skilled thancompared to less attractive people, as though an invisible “halo” were shining down upon the beautiful.

Unlike other professionals (law, for example), doctors don’t seem to be getting a lot of guidance on how to dress in college or after. But haven’t we all noticed that all the top doctors/ big names in the community power dress?

A few power dressing tips for doctors:

  • Wear colours that suit your skin tone.
  • Wear colour coordinated clothes.
  • Wear clothes that fit.
  • Avoid wearing heavy/ obnoxious jewellery.
  • Wear good quality scrubs that fit and not stained with blood and other body fluids.
  • Wear a white coat that fits and is white (white clothes tend to appear dull or change colour after repeated washing).
  • Wear neatly ironed clothes.
  • Wear formal shoes.
  • Invest in the right accessories.
  • Hair is important!
  • Personal hygiene is a must!

Related articles

Do Looks Matter For Professional Success?

The Power of Power Dressing


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