If you think that your sartorial choices are irrelevant to your performance as a physician or clinician, you are mistaken. An article from the Washington Post has described how the apparel of a physician actually has a huge effect on how patients perceive their doctors.
It turns out that patients strongly prefer their doctors wear lab coats in a clinical setting, as it conveys an image of professionalism and skillfulness. Though the data collected was done in an informal study, the findings indicate that most patients feel pretty negatively about their doctors wearing scrubs to consult with patients, unless they are operating or are in an EM setting – in these hands-on settings, scrubs are rated favorably.
In general, the results showed that patients are not impressed when their doctor wears casual attire, be it scrubs or everyday clothing. There was a strong preference for doctors who wore formal attire or a lab coat, or both.
These studies are not conclusive and the authors of the article are in the process of completing a more in-depth study to more definitively assess exactly what their patients prefer them to wear, depending on specialty. These findings should provide more evidence as to how a doctor’s work attire actively plays a role in the way they are perceived by a patient.