Bioethics Discussion Blog: How Would You Want Your Doctor Dressed or "Undressed"?

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

How Would You Want Your Doctor Dressed or "Undressed"?

How Would You Want Your Doctor Dressed or “Undressed"? is a very important question both from the point of view of patient trust but also with regard to infection control. Writing in “Family Practice Management” June 2006, Bobby J. Newbell, M.D. wrote an article regarding physician dressing habits. The article starts out with a question “If a shirt and tie are too formal and jeans and a T-shirt are too casual, what's a doctor to do?” Dr. Newbell ends up with choosing “unisex, featureless, strictly utilitarian, pajama-like clothes that cover the maximum area with minimum material, scrubs are the ultimate triumph of function over style. Hanging on the thin, straining on the corpulent, scrubs are democratic in their indignity to the human form. Attempts to add a note of individuality or whimsy to scrubs by adding colorful patterns or cartoon depictions only reinforce the garment's relentless banality.” Got the picture? You know what it is: a so-called "scrub suit". Dr. Newbell thinks they are the just right clothing for a physician to wear.

Further and beyond the issue of appearance, without clinicians wearing ties or white coats with long sleeves, documented sources for bacterial transmission, control of infections can be improved. I know many patients might say that there is more to be concerned about their doctor than how he or she dresses, however since doctors do have to practice medicine with some clothing on their bodies, “what should a doctor do?”

I suggest a little mental exercise: create a mental paper cut out of a doctor, male or female, and then, in your mind, cover the doctor with some paper cut out clothing, just the way you would want to see him or her in real life. And then write to this thread what you came up with. By the way, those who have the time and interest could make a graphic of your imagination of a properly dressed doctor and e-mail it to me as a relatively small jpg file and I will attempt to post some of your examples here. My e-mail address is : DoktorMo@aol.com

..Maurice.

12 Comments:

At Monday, June 16, 2008 10:22:00 AM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

For a different view of the results of modern physician's dressing practices in the confidence and trust the doctor's appearance makes to patients, go to the American College of Physicians Online site. ..Maurice.

 
At Tuesday, June 17, 2008 1:44:00 AM, Anonymous Mary said...

Dr. B., I am of the generation where I am only comfortable with my doctors and other care givers in traditional attire. But I must really be behind the times. Check out this Medscape blog of a medical student about to rotate in a hospital. Her dilemma is whether her current hairdo, which is dyed bright pink in mohawk style will be accepted. Of the numerous comments, other med students expressed concern about their own multiple face piercings or full arm and body tattoos. Pity the poor patient who awakes from anesthesia to find people such as these hovering over them.

http://medscape.typepad.com/thedifferential/2008/06/can-a-med-stude.html#comments

 
At Tuesday, June 17, 2008 4:38:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

Mary, thanks for the Medscape URL. It is interesting that medical students hold mixed views of the appropriateness of nose rings, tatoos and unusual dyed hair in terms of professionalism or acceptance by their superiors. One wonders how those holding one view or the opposing view will turn out later in their careers. Will there be over the years a tendency for all to become conservative and attempt to abandon any previous controversial dress or appearance issues. Or if not, how will this persistence affect their careers, their relationships to patients and would it tell anything about their professional skills? ..Maurice.

 
At Thursday, June 19, 2008 8:04:00 AM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

An ethicist Robert B. Shabanowitz, PhD, wrote me the following e-mail in response to this thread. He gave me permission to post it here. ..Maurice.



Dr. Bernstein, [apparently referring to the title of the thread] Funny you should ask. About a month ago my father-in-law had an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon to discuss his knee replacement surgery. I attended the appointment with him here at Geisinger. I had heard wonderful things about this surgeon, but had never met him. When the doctor arrived, he was wearing a bright red polo-type shirt and a nice pair of casual black slacks. The minute he walked in the room, both my father-in-law and myself felt entirely comfortable and at ease. I thought to myself, I wonder if this is one of the reasons this surgeon was so well liked and referred to. In fact, we had run into him just previously in the hallway but did not realize he was a physician. As it turns out, a few days later I met the surgeon at our local highschool during a student art fare. As I introduced him to my wife, I was telling her how comfortable he looked at her father's appointment and, in t! urn how that played out for myself and my father-in-law. I was surprised to hear him claim that he never dresses that way and is usually garbed in traditional tie and dress shirt, etc. I thought to myself, what a shame, I much preferred him in his more casual attire. I prefer this casual attire. I was surprised at its immediate calming affect and the feeling that we had an instant rapport with the physician. I would suggest this style of casual yet "dressy" looking attire would be preferable to shirt and tie. In my humble opinion, dress polo shirts of different colors with black or beige pants would be entirely appropriate

Bob

 
At Thursday, June 19, 2008 10:01:00 AM, Anonymous Mary said...

I don't think I would mind my doctor wearing casual clothes during an office visit or discussion of my health. But during the physical exam procedures I would prefer the traditional attire. Picturing my doctor in street clothes giving me a breast or pelvic exam would make me very uncomfortable. Somehow the white coat advertises the doctor's credentials, and that it's OK to be naked in front of him. For me, the environment at such times should be 100% clinical in appearance.

 
At Thursday, June 19, 2008 11:00:00 AM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

Mary, short of (hopefully) a breast but also a pelvic exam, often physicians now a days unfortunately examine patients without much removal of clothing, so that the examination procedure is carried out with the patient still dressed thus in those cases making your consideration moot.

By the way, we teach our medical students to examine patients, selectively covered for modesty and temperature comfort, on their bare and exposed skin for the most accurate results. However, later in practice, most likely time and office space limitation amongst other reasonas, may lead to through the clothing physical exams. ..Maurice.

 
At Friday, June 20, 2008 10:35:00 AM, Anonymous gingerB said...

I prefer to see a physician dressed in business casual attire. I like clothing to be washable because it makes me think that it's been washed lately!

As my workplace has bombarded us with "sneeze in your sleeve" emails I'd rather see a long sleeved shirt (fresh looking) than a suit jacket (how many sneezes has it taken?).

I grew up in a university town so the Professorial mode is good for me. Better for your physician to look like a Chemist or a Biologist than a Businessman.

 
At Friday, June 27, 2008 3:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I prefer a physician to be in more of a business attire with a white freshly laundered lab coat. I read where ties are loaded with and carry tons of bacteria because ties are not laundered or dry cleaned. Doctors should stay away from wearing a tie because of that issue. I don't like it when a doctor walks in with very casual attire that looks too casual, i.e. boat shoes, sneakers, wrinkled pants, etc. It should be smart casual Friday with a lab coat.

 
At Sunday, June 29, 2008 5:24:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

NO wild hairdos or colors.
No nose rings, eyebrow rings, tongue whatevers, nose pins...etc>
other than that I am not real particular, but it ought to make security a bit easier in doctors offices, hospitals, etc. if there is some sort of traditional uniform...otherwise it sure would be easier for an imposter to cause all grief.
leemacaz

 
At Tuesday, July 01, 2008 4:18:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When filing a complaint against a medical experience with the CMS in CA I actually had a case worker say they personally had a bad experience with modesty when they had to disrobe completely for an exam with an opposite sex nurse. (female patient--male nurse). They were outraged with the ordeal. This person did make a comment that they would like the doctor (or nurse) be as undressed as they were asked to be! That would be a new one.

 
At Tuesday, July 01, 2008 6:00:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

Short of the outrageous demand, a question would be whether a female patient undergoing a pelvic exam would feel less comfortable if her male physician was wearing light sport shirt and pants and sneakers without a white coat or just a scrub suit with sneakers instead of a suit shirt with tie, pleated dark pants and shined black shoes? Is there or should there be a difference in comfort the way a physician is dressed who is specifically performing "intimate" exams, as compared with the activity of sitting behind a desk taking a medical history or simply examining the patient's nose or throat? ..Maurice.

 
At Sunday, July 20, 2008 4:05:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay I cannot get passed everone in the office wearing scrubs. I really cannot stand it everyone looks really sloppy and unproffesional. Okay I can understand a nurse but the clerical staff it is just out-of-hand. This is something I noticed all long time ago and just this week I went to an Eye Specialist even the ladie who does the Visual Field test was wearing scrubs (WOW). I asked her did they perform any surgery at this location and she said "all surgery is handle at a different facility". The scrubs are out of hand and it is like CASUAL FRIDAY before CASUAL FRIDAY went away. So sorry for the rant but I usually never really noticed, but a clean white lab coats is fine by me.
Larry

 

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