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Does it matter how your doctor dresses?

In years gone by, doctors were instantly recognizable. Almost each one of them wore white coats and smart attire. Male doctors were inevitably clad with ties, long sleeves and well-polished leather shoes.

And so too was the case with lady doctors, crisp business suits and well-healed formal footwear. Many would don a stethoscope round their necks, with some tagging a medical bag along.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and will you find icons of medicine that are best buried in the annals of history. 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 lots of organisms that cause disease, 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 every few days, 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 make your doctor look smart and business-like. But ties and scarfs are known to dangle onto patients and inevitably pick up organisms that can be transferred to others. If a tie must be worn, it’s best tucked into the shirt to keep it away from picking up stuff. Best not to wear one at all. The same goes for long sleeves, which also have a habit of collecting lots of organisms and passing them on. If long sleeves must be worn, it’s best to fold them up Obama-style. Or simply wear short sleeves which are smart enough. 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? 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. Similar to doctors examining multiple patients without hand washing in between. The stethoscope is increasingly being viewed as archaic, best to replace it with handheld ultrasound devices that give much more clinical information.

There are many perspectives on how doctors should dress. They should no doubt be smart, clean and decently dressed.Next time you measure up your doctor’s dressing code, think of other implications beyond the latest fashion fads.

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