18 March 2012

What should a doctor look like?

How a doctor acts plays an important part in how patients perceive the care they receive. It's commonly expected that a doctor should be compassionate, polite and have excellent communication and interpersonal skills. We (and I) expect doctors to explain things in a way that patients understand. We expect them to take the time to explain diagnoses, prognosis and management plans in a way that a patient in a vulnerable position will be able to take in and make informed decisions.

But if a doctor fulfils all of these requirements, then should it matter if they dress appropriately but happen to have bright blue hair and a nose stud?

Do sick patients have less faith in doctors who don't look the same as their colleagues?

In my time as a doctor and a health care assistant I've seen many nurses and ancillary staff with unnatural hair colours, piercings and tattoos, but it's rare to see a doctor who makes a similar statement.

Have we all become so stereotyped that we have to become clones of each other?

Should a job or career affect who we are in our personal lives?

While I have no problem in stepping outside of the stereotype 'doctor' box, I can't help but feel that I will never truly be able to express myself until I reach a much more senior position and my external appearance is less likely to affect my career progression.

Should it be like this? Isn't this a more subtle type of discrimination?

So for now, unless someone else is bold enough to make a statement in my deanery, I guess I'll just have to stick to hidden tattoos, discrete piercings and 'natural(ish)' hair colour.

*sad face*

But what do you think?


The Young Mummy said...

Personnally I find doctors who dress as themselves be it covered in tattoes or like a barbie doll easier to communicate with while doctors who dress as the "public" expects to me are simply intimidating.

I would say it also depends on the specialty going into a care of the elderly ward with a nose stud and tattoos might raise a few eyebrows where as baby pink hair on a kids ward would be cool and dare I say it full sleeves would likely raise eyebrows everywhere.

2 tats, 3 piercing and purple hair god help me if i ever get into medicine

emt.dan said...


Don't judge a book by their cover...

shehrazed said...

so glad you brought this up... ive been battling with myself over this for ages. even as a student, i feel compelled to dress more discretely even though my mind aches for the clothes that may appear more 'outlandish' but that i feel most comfortable in... let alone piercings i desperately want or my bland hair colour that truly brings me down.

i truly think a doctor's experience does not affect their ability, and to some extent, the codes aren't set out by the patients... but the doctors themselves; also too harsh lest we get insulted.
it's a shame.
id love to be myself with patients!

Dash said...

I don't really mind how doctors dress, it's the knowledge that counts.

Vets have to worry about this kind of thing too, male students still have to wear shirts and ties at uni despite the proven disease transmission risk. Until 2 years ago there were still white labcoats.

At the moment I go with shirt (minus tie) and scrub top. And I even wear trainers!

Anonymous said...

I was talking to my sister about this - she wanted to dye her hair green. I was trying to explain to her that whether or not she thinks its right, or whether she would judge somebody based on their appearance, other people will judge. Its just the way it is. I suppose it just depends if you are willing ot let people make those assumptions about you.

Although I have to say that when doctors come onto the wards dressed really casually I do disapprove a bit - all the other staff have to wear uniforms and look smart in them, why should the doctors be any different?

Anonymous said...

Maybe doctors should have uniforms then?

Yrina said...

I personally think that doctors should dress in a certain way. Yes it is about the knowledge but it is hard to justify dressing like people who work in goth shops, a nail salon, as cleaners etc.
I believe that it is about the professional nature of the job and so a certain dress sense should be imposed.

PPLIC said...

Nice article. very interesting, thanks for sharing.