Today, my distinguished colleague, Karen Hickman, founder of Professional Courtesy, LLC., offers her advice on Professionalism and Contemporary Medical Attire.  Ms. Hickman is an etiquette and protocol consultant, trained and certified by The Protocol School of Washington©and the TEA School™ in Scotland, Connecticut. 


What is the appropriate dress for the staff and physicians in offices and hospitals today? This question is one that causes confusion in many work places, not just the medical arena. Staying current and keeping up with the times in dress is important. Uniforms of some sort give an air of professionalism and a sense of solidarity.

One of the most important ideas of uniforms is to let the public know who you are, that you are at work, not at play, that you are not some stranger off the street who comes into a patient room in the middle of the night. In short, you should look like what you do and who you are.

Here are some basic tips for dressing today:

  • Establish well defined dress codes and enforce them.
  • Be clean and well groomed. Shorter fingernails are more professional and more hygienic. Save nail art and dramatic nail color for social situations.
  • Hair kept short or up is suitable and more professional in all business situations. Keep makeup subtle.
  • Fragrances should be kept to a minimum and if you smoke, consider how you smell leaning over a sick patient.
  • Well fitting clothes are a benefit to everyone, no matter the size.
  • Clothes should be clean, well maintained and pressed.
  • Panty hose should be worn with skirts; bare legs are unprofessional.
  • Invest in and use a full length mirror before leaving the house.
  • Pants may not be flattering to all women. If that is the case, consider a uniform with a skirt.
  • Solid colors are often more flattering than prints.
  • Jackets and blazers add an air of authority and professionalism to men and women.
  • Identification badges should be visible at all times (first names only may be necessary for security reasons). Reinforce identification with an introduction.
  • Save athletic shoes for athletics. Wear clean, polished, professional shoes. No sandals.
  • Jewelry kept simple and to a minimum presents a more professional image.
  • Gum chewing is not a part of any uniform.

Copy_of_HCT.jpgIndividuals in administrative positions or positions that do not require a uniform, including physicians, should use care to look professional and well groomed. It is just as important as those requiring a uniform.  Again, wearing proper identification is essential.

It has been said, that the way we are dressed can influence the way we work and how we are perceived. When the public looks at you and views you in your work environment, what do they see?