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Scrubs? Traditional white coat (with a dress shirt and tie for men or a blouse and a skirt for women, or more casual)? How about a polo with your facility’s logo emblazoned on the chest? It’s not just a matter of what you’re comfortable wearing, or your employer’s dress code. Patients get definite perceptions of the care they’re about to receive based on your sartorial choices—to the extent that they may trust you more or less based on that seemingly surface first impression, possibly affecting how well they’ll follow your directions. A new study published by JAMA Network reveals that clinicians who dress most traditionally like clinicians—starting with the white coat—are presumed to be more knowledgeable and competent by patients and therefore more likely to easily establish rapport with them. Not only that,  one third of the 487 patients who took part in the survey acknowledged that the perception they hold based on how the provider dresses is one component of their satisfaction with the care they receive. Unfortunately, the survey also revealed gender biases among the respondents. Shown photographs of male and female physicians dressed in a variety of styles (eg, white coat, business attire, scrubs, fleece or softshell jackets), respondents were more prone to rate females as “appearing less professional” and to mistake the female models for technicians, physician assistants, and nurses compared with how they viewed male models. These factors may be especially influential in urgent care, where the patient could be encountering a provider for the first time on every visit. JUCM explored this issue in an article that’s currently in our archive. You can read Image Check: Impact of Employee Appearance on the Patient Experience right now.

‘Clothes Make the Man’ May Be Trite (and Sexist), but How You Dress Matters to Patients