What Should a Doctor Wear to Work?


A recent study published in BMJ Open reveals that over half of patients think that what their doctor wears is important. At first this may come as a surprise- after all, whether your doctor is in Gucci SS19 or not pales in comparison to the standard of care and compassion they provide. However, it does make sense when you think about it more closely.

So why does it matter?

Imagine if your doctor came in with grubby clothes and dirty nails- if they can’t take care of their own hygiene, how can you expect them to be mindful of yours? Or what if you saw a doctor in A&E tottering towards an emergency in too high heels- woudn’t you rather they’d be able to run? Some may say that clothes are just clothes, but it’s easy to see how the wrong clothes can give off the wrong impression to already anxious patients.

Interestingly, what you wear has an impact on your own behaviour as well. One study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology describes the phenomenon of thinking not just with our brains but also with our bodies’. Participants were given white coats and told that they belonged to doctors. Wearing them increased the subjects’ ability to pay attention- pretty amazing. This feeds into the old cliché of ‘dress for success’. If you look like someone who performs at their best, chances are you’ll feel a lot more competent and ready to handle whatever the medical profession throws at you!

Comfort is a good place to start

Of course, it’s hard to specify exactly what a doctor should or shouldn’t wear. After all, what’s appropriate for a night on the wards is probably different to what a GP wears. It’s worth thinking about the physical aspects to your job. Are you going to be on your feet for hours or can you afford to wear a slightly more uncomfy shoe? Fit is also key. Constantly having to adjust a piece of clothing doesn’t come across well in your body language. It makes you appear uncomfortable and anxious- not what you want to give across to your patients!

Then think practicality

Of course, spillages, accidents and other mishaps come with the territory of being a doctor. Adam Kay’s book This is Going to Hurt covers this in great detail, at one point describing being soaked through to the skin in someone else’s blood. Clothing that’s easily washable and possibly not a family heirloom is going to come into play here. As mentioned earlier, you also want to be able to really move in them to make allowances for the physical nature of the job. Pockets are also key for a job that requires you to move from room to room. Sadly, they’re still overlooked in a lot of dresses and skirts- when you find your perfect dress with plenty of pocket room, be sure to buy two.

Last- but not least- consider your style

As said before, if you’re not comfortable in what you’re wearing, it’s going to show in your body language. Sticking to clothes that you actually like is a guaranteed way to make yourself, and by proxy your patients, feel at ease. After all, patients want to think that you’re human too- you’ll achieve this if your personal style shines through in your workwear. It’s also worth thinking about colour and pattern. Many people shy away from this, but consider that while head-to-toe black might always be stylish, it may not be that uplifting for a patient that can’t leave their hospital bed. A lively, well put together outfit might really make a difference to their day, as it most definitely will do to yours!