Clothes Do Make the Private Practice Doctor

April 10, 2017

While it may seem trivial to some, the way doctors in private practice present themselves is an important part of the job.

"What a strange power there is in clothing" - Isaac Bashevis Singer

"Clothes make the man.  Naked people have little or no influence on society" - Mark Twain

"The way we dress affects the way we think, the way we feel, the way we act and the way others react to us" -Judith Rasband

The following post may seem frivolous to some, and may seem like an article out of People instead of Physicians Practice, but I hope that others find something in it that is a familiar daily dilemma.

What am I going to wear today?  Well, in reality, I plan my outfit the night before, so I'm not staring at my closet at 6:30 am thinking "I have nothing to wear!"

When I was in med school, we were required to wear white.  It's been a while so I don't remember if we had to wear white every day, but we definitely had to once we started doing clinical rotations.  We didn't have a uniform per se, but we had to have a white shirt or blouse and a white pair of pants or skirt.  We had long days and nights, and comfort was the priority.  In residency, we spent many days in scrubs and we needed to dress comfortable enough for 36-48 hour shifts.  Yes, I know, those days are gone for residents.  But in those days, sneakers were my usual shoes of choice.  I wore little to no make-up because 1) I had no time to put any on, and 2) make-up looks awful after 24 hours. 

But back then, my appearance meant very little to me.  My objective was to survive the day in relative comfort.  I didn't care if patients judged me by my wrinkled scrubs. 

Now that I am in private practice, I believe how I present myself does matter.  I've heard patients say about things about other doctors - how they can't trust that he is sanitary because he's got crumbs on his shirt, or how she must just be in it for the money since she's in designer clothes, or how she looks more like a nurses' aide than a doctor.  Is it wrong?  Sure.  But just like everywhere else first impressions matter.

So I try to look presentable.  But comfort is still essential to me.  If I know tomorrow I have three procedures to do and I will be standing for a prolonged period of time, then that will be a comfy shoe day.  I also need to take into consideration that I will likely crouch down to examine people's feet, will reach over people and will sit across from some people as they lie in a hospital bed.  Will my clothes allow me to move unrestricted without letting them look down my shirt or up my skirt?

With that in mind, I also sometimes have to tailor what I'm wearing based on who is coming in on any given day.  I have had a couple of patients make inappropriate remarks about my legs, so I try to remember to wear pants when I know they are coming.

As usual, when it comes to clothes, men have it easy.  Button-down shirt and a tie, plus/minus the white coat, dress shoes.  No one would even notice if you wore the same four outfits day in and day out so long as you're neat and clean.  But for women…

So let me ask you, darling, who are you wearing?