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Addressing the dress code double standard

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The debate over dress code standardization is nothing new at Scrubs magazine. We’ve discussed color-coded requirements for some health care workers and not others, as well as the pros and cons of this requirement.

Lately I’ve been wondering if the licensed providers (physicians, PAs, NPs) have ever heard the saying “dress for success.” And, if they have heard the saying before, what happened?

I previously discussed the inequality between the physicians’ and healthcare workers’ dress code requirements. Some physicians will show up for rounds dressed “down.”

I do remember and am very aware of the infection control concerns that have been raised (see Nothing to Sneeze At: Doctors’ Neckties Seen as Flu Risk and Doctors and hospital workers may be banned from wearing neckties under New York state law for examples), but does this mean professional dress should be ignored?

I just don’t know how a physician can show up to care for a patient in jeans and a collared polo shirt. Better yet, how can they show up in a pair of scrubs? Scrubs that were taken from the OR at that, and not a pair one would purchase.

What I do know is that we all should look the part–all of us. In the greater picture and echelon of care, the physician and his/her fellow providers are at the top of the tier. While I’m not here to quibble over appropriate dress for everyone, there should be a certain expectation of those directing the care.

Here are the two questions that continue to circulate in my mind:

  1. Why are they not professionally dressed?
  2.  If they are not professionally dressed, whose responsibility is it to correct it?

Are you as the nurse going to address the physician’s dress code? Yeah, that would go over like a lead balloon, huh?

Better yet (and dare I type this?): Could my concerns be part of the confusion patients experience when trying to recognize healthcare workers?

I personally believe your attire sets the stage for your performance and can affect the flow of a patient’s care. Hmm. Am I overreacting?

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3 Responses to Addressing the dress code double standard

  1. Nurse Rene RN

    The reasons are simple: Because they CAN. Doctors typically do not work as employees for hospitals. They are Contractors who can and will take their ‘business’ elsewhere if they get miffed over a facility’s Rules and Regulations. However, sometimes a bit of good-natured ‘ribbing’ can help. I once had a doc who was the First to show up with a hands-free earpiece attached to his cell phone. He always looked as if he were talking to himself so I asked if he had been ‘assimilated into The Borg collective’ (Star Trek). Wasn’t long before he ‘lost’ the earpiece.

  2. Abby Student

    I guess if we wear our pajamas to work, jeans and a polo shirt is pretty formal attire

  3. Belasko RN

    Yeah, you’re over reacting. At least based on the examples you listed. A doctor showing up to care for you in scrubs (yes, even the hospital OR scrubs) is fine. Expected even if they are a surgeon! Polo shirt and jeans? Maybe pushing the edge there but nothing really wrong if it’s neat and clean. I will (and have) griped a little when they show up in spandex bike shorts, even on weekends.

    I think Rene already answered your first question. For the second, the only ones that will be able to address this kind of issue w/ them is hospital administrators. Like you said, it won’t go well if it’s nursing.

    As for the confusion pt’s have identifying hospital staff I think that goes much deeper. Probably our social system as a whole. After going standardized, partly for that very reason, pt’s still can’t tell who the nurses are (I get called doctor once a week at least) or housekeeping or any others based on uniform. We need to clearly identify ourselves and our role. Pt’s could take the time to actually read (if they are able) our ID tags that have our name and title posted right on them!

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