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Doctors’ dressing codes

Years ago, doctors were instantly recognizable. They dressed in smart attire and white coats. Male doctors sported ties, long sleeves and well-polished leather shoes. And so too was the case with women doctors, crisp business suits and matching footwear. Many would don a stethoscope round their necks, with some tagging a medical bag along. They walked with a bloated air of self-importance.

Fast forward to the 21st century, doctors are hardly recognizable. All those age-old norms are gone. And all this for good reasons. You want your doctor to be modernist, not stuck in stone-age traditions that hardly contribute to competence, and at worst may portend harm.

Why does your doctor need to wear a white coat? Several reasons may be put forth, including some feeling of elitism. But white coats have been known to harbor harmful organisms, with high potential of passing these on from patient to patient. Some suggest doing away with white coats altogether. If one must be worn, it should be changed frequently, and laundered in a manner that kills all surface bacteria. If the doctor needs to protect their clothes, they can simply put on disposable gowns whenever required. Far much better than moving from patient to patient whilst wearing the same white coat for days on end.

What about the tie for male doctors, and scarfs for females? These no doubt create a smart and business-like image. But ties and scarfs are known to dangle onto patients during medical exams, inevitably picking up organisms. No one requires such attire just to project the right image. The same goes for long sleeves. There is a popular slang in medical wear called BBE, meaning bare below elbows. Good practice for patient protection.

Why does anybody need to hang a stethoscope round their necks, or walk about with other medical gadgets? Stethoscopes have been subjected to studies that show evidence of harboring lethal organisms. This is more the case when the same stethoscope is used to examine multiple patients, without any sterilization in between. The stethoscope is increasingly viewed as archaic, and is being replaced by more usable gadgets.

But there are also newer dressing code extremes that border on the absurd. You know the lot: unkempt hair and beard, tattered jeans with slip-ons, inappropriate body artwork exposure, etc. There must be a minimum level of dressing decency. Otherwise your doctor will easily be mistaken for the carefree junkie next door.

However you find your doctor dressed, certain principles must be upheld. They should dress in a way that engenders confidence in you. They must not be overly dressed to the extent that they become a danger to their patients. Equally, under-dressing can be an unnecessary distraction. Simply stated, your doctor’s dressing code only needs to align with their core clinical activities.

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