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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