Medical Student Dress Code
Introduction: Currently, medical students are not given specific guidance on how to dress. This allows them to wear what they interpret as appropriate, which may not always be optimal. Many studies have shown that a doctor’s attire can greatly affect the consultation; however, no studies have been carried out investigating patient responses to medical student attire.
Methods: A two-phase patient questionnaire was conducted. Phase 1 surveyed 60 patients, who were given questionnaires based on pictures of medical students in various clothing styles: with a white coat, without a white coat but smartly dressed, and without a white coat dressed smart casual. This was followed by a second live phase where 50 patients were seen by medical students dressed with or without white coats and were asked to complete a survey assessing their response to the student and consultation based solely on their dress.
Results: Patients favour medical students wearing white coats. In our questionnaire based study (phase 1), white coats scored highest in trust and confidence (p<0.05), cleanliness and professionalism (p<0.005), and they were not more intimidating (p<0.05). In our live study (phase 2), wearing a white coat scored highest in cleanliness and professionalism compared to no white coat (p<0.005), but significance was lost in trust and confidence (p>0.05), and comfort and intimidation (p>0.05). 90% of participants responded that it was important how medical students dressed and 78% would like to be able to distinguish medical students from doctors.
Discussion: Medical students’ attire is an important issue for patients. Our study shows that students dressed in white coats score more highly on cleanliness and professionalism than without a white coat.
Conclusion: Direction over medical student attire should be given based upon evidence based approaches and patient expectations. Furthermore, the opinions concerning white coats should be further explored and their reinstitution considered.
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