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After navigating medical school, residency, overnight shifts and other medical field challenges, the last thing a young female physician needs is to unwittingly wear a wardrobe that discredits her professionalism. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, many doctors do just that when they could be promoting more trust in the physician-patient relationships by simply dressing appropriately. Of the study's nearly 300 respondents, nearly all agreed that doctors should dress professionally while on duty, and that they associate doctors' wardrobe with levels of honesty and quality care. To strike a healthy balance between dressing, wear what you love to wear – but keep a few guidelines in mind.
Dress to attract – not distract. Erin Marcus, Ph.D., wrote in The New York Times about a time when a female physician colleague frequently wore low-cut dresses, distracting her male counterparts when delivering otherwise thoughtful presentations. To attract attention to your professionalism and expertise, don't call unwanted attention to your physique. Make sure your dresses and skirts hit just above the knee or below, and wear tops that flatter rather than reveal too much.
Save the Stilettos
Save the stilettos when you're off the clock. Even if you're an experienced stiletto-walker and you find them comfortable, it's best to save them for an evening out rather than in the medical setting. Ballet flats, kitten heels or sneakers are easier to withstand when making patient rounds or running to the emergency room.
Your white lab jacket may cover a good bit of your style and your stethoscope may replace your finer baubles, but accessories are still a smart way to creatively express your fashion tastes while staying conservative in other wardrobe choices. Choose trendy eye-wear, invest in your favorite earrings and add color with a scarf peeping out of your jacket or draped loosely below your stethoscope. Your white uniform can double as a background for stylish pins – whimsical ones if you work with children, or well-designed ones that pay tribute to a hobby or special interest of yours. Your accessories can be conversation pieces, too, helping nervous patients get a more personal glimpse of the woman behind the medical chart.
While most colors work anytime and everywhere, some colors rise to the top of the color chart during certain fashion seasons. You can keep your professional attire fresh by updating your wardrobe with trending seasonal colors or by donning stylish scarves, slacks, skirts and tops.
Keep in mind the demands of your work day when dressing for your shift. If you'll be washing and disinfecting your hands frequently, leave your bracelets and watches at home and wear short or three-quarter length sleeves. For hygiene purposes, wear closed-toe shoes to protect your feet from fluid spills. Also, avoid jewelry that could scratch or touch a patient if you get close to examine them.
Always follow the dress code posted by your clinic or hospital administration for physicians.
- JAMA: Physician Attire in the Intensive Care Unit and Patient Family Perceptions of Physician Professional Characteristics
- Healthbeat: The Doctor's Dresscode
- The New York Times: When Young Doctors Strut Too Much of Their Stuff
- OBG Management: The Hospital Has a New Dress Code For Its Vectors, Er, Doctors
Zoe Maletta writes on a variety of topics with special focus on leadership, careers and small business management. Professionally writing since 2007, her many publishers include "The Houston Chronicle", "Global Post Careers" and "The Nest." When she's not writing, Maletta enjoys making memories with family and participating in church ministry. Maletta holds both a B.S.and an M.A. in counseling.