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Dress Codes: Yea or Nay in Medical Practices?


Our office has a dress code, but we like to have fun as a pediatric practice. So when it comes to formal rules, are you strict or do you allow silly?

A recent article in Harper's Bazaar featured a woman that wears exactly the same thing to work every day: black pants and white blouse. That started me thinking about my practice's "uniform" and also about what I tend to wear at the office.

At my dentist's office, everyone from front desk to dental assistants dress in the same color palette. I usually go on Wednesdays and the colors are aqua and brown. When I asked about it, they told me that they have different colors for each day of the week. It is a really professional appearance.

In my pediatric office, a daily color code probably wouldn't work. But we do have our own dress code and it is in writing. All staff members are expected to dress professionally. Scrubs are an acceptable alternative for both front and nursing staff. On Fridays, we do allow blue jeans but encourage everyone to wear the shirts with our logo. And we specify that the jeans should not have holes or a ragged appearance. Obviously, low-cut blouses or miniskirts are not acceptable.

The doctors and nurse practitioners have never been a problem with the clothes they pick. I think that we intuitively know that we must look professional. This is especially important for new patients or patients that haven't met us yet.

That doesn't mean we don't have fun. We can wear Disney or Sesame Street shirts and the kids are delighted. I personally love wearing crazy socks and shoes. The little girls especially love my hot pink cowgirl boots.

And in pediatrics, we can have dress-up days. We will have a theme such as sports jerseys, hat day, or my favorite: pajama day. Recently a young child that was in for a sick visit asked the doctor wearing pajamas and a robe: "Oh, are you sick too?"

Halloween is especially great in our office. We ALWAYS wear costumes on Halloween. Attached is one of my favorites from last year. This is one of our nurse practitioners, Lauren (right).

Now, about that white lab coat: pediatricians almost never wear them. Young children quickly develop a "white-coat syndrome" and start crying as soon as they see one. In residency, one of my attending physicians only wore pale blue coats just so that children were not so afraid.

Male physicians can have fun with the ties they wear. Sometimes I wish that it were more acceptable for females to wear neckties. However, one of my male physicians has stopped wearing ties after a child blew her nose on it when the doctor leaned in close.

Do you have a dress code policy? Does your office ever have dress-up days? Let me know how you handle dress code infractions or generational differences for acceptable business attire.

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