What to wear to a Medical Consultation
I have never worn a white coat as a doctor, but in some countries this the is the expected “uniform”. Really, I mean white is not my colour, although back in 1985 there was a pair of white jeans. They didn’t last long as I seem to attract dirt. It would be even worse in a world of blood, pus, poo and urine!
The aptly titled TAILOR study (that is, targeting attire to improve likelihood
of rapport) was a review of published papers to find out if patient preferred their doctor to wear formal attire. The authors were American but they did review papers from a variety of countries. They concluded “the influence of physician attire on patient perceptions is complex and multifactorial.” And suggested that “patients harbour a number of beliefs regarding physician dress that are context and setting-specific.”
One of the Tailor study authors went onto a write a commentary for The Conversation. His final comment was “While scrubs are appropriate for operating or emergency rooms, we suggest changing into more formal attire to visit patients in the hospital or the clinic. Regardless of the occasion, flip-flops, showy jewelry or jeans simply don’t belong in the hospital, just as scrubs do not belong outside the hospital environment. Especially not in the grocery store.”
In another BMJ article a microbiologist berated junior doctors for not wearing ties. And heaven forbid facial jewelry. This was frowned upon by the authors of this study. The majority of American patient surveyed gave such jewelry a big thumbs down; “negatively affects perceived competency and trustworthiness.”
I will stick with comfortable shoes, pushed down socks, shorts and a casual shirt with absolutely no tie. And I may just see if the stud still goes through the hole in my ear.
Now moving onto patients!
Are there any rules?
Should there be any rules?
What are the expectations?
Doing a PubMed search revealed very little on the subject. Amongst lots of articles (1120 to be exact) they all focused on patient’s perceptions of what health care professional should wear and not visa versa . Maybe there is a PhD in that?
So, here is my thoughts on what will make the consultation run smoother based on experience and chatting with colleagues.
First may I state the obvious, make sure you are wearing clothing. Turning up to the consultation naked will have you transported to the nearest psychiatric unit for an assessment of your mental health.
Secondly, don’t feel obliged to wear a suit and tie or even smart casual. Dress comfortably as we may be chatting for a while. I don’t work in a 3 minute appointment clinic and I like to get to know my patients. But you remember all those studies mentioned above, well I am human and despite my intensive training, I will sometimes lapse into making a judgement about you if you turn up in smelly torn jeans, odd socks, and NSFW emblazoned t-shirts.
Now I am not suggesting that I make my patients wear gowns for an examination as is the case in other countries,
My suggestion would be wear what would you to visit your Gran?
Here are some other logical practical suggestions.
1. Consider having a shower on the day of the consultation.
2. Consider wearing underwear and if you do make sure they are also clean.
3. Consider leaving your muddy boots at the front door of the clinic, but have fresh socks available.
4. Consider loose clothing. This is especially important if you have knee or hip pain or have come in for pap (oops… cervical screening test).
5. If I have to listen to your chest, the stethoscope works best on the bare skin. If you have several layers of clothing, some will need to be removed.
6. If you have booked a skin check be prepared to remove shoes, socks and at least some other clothing. Not wanting to make anyone paranoid, but melanomas can develop on places which may not get a lot of sunshine.
7. And, although strictly not clothing, please bring in your glasses and hearing aids.
Have I missed anything??