I remember my first day on inpatient rotations. I woke up, showered, and then put on dress slacks, a dress shirt and tie. After looking in the mirror, I knew I was dressed more appropriately for a business sales presentation than bouncing around on the wards.
Even though it didn’t feel right, I did it anyway. Students, residents, and attending physicians dress up for the wards because it’s been done since the beginning formalized patient care.
Just because everybody does it doesn’t mean it’s the most practical thing to do. Do patients really care what their physician wears when they come to see them on rounds? Without a doubt, some do.
Does this mean that you should cater to your patients’ expectations 100% of the time? Hell no.
Business attire is not practical for the hospital inpatient setting, bottom line.
Let’s consider an inpatient medicine rotation. Many procedures are done on a daily basis, which often result in some type of bodily fluid coming into contact with your freshly-pressed dress shirt. You’re on your feet most of the day, and a comfortable pair of tennis shoes or Crocs makes more sense than dress shoes. Neckties harbor bacteria — they are not necessary.
Inpatient ward medicine is suited for scrubs, and not only while on-call. Wearing business attire and changing into something more appropriate each time you need to do a procedure is tedious and unnecessary. Although business attire presents an aura of professionalism to the patient, physicians need to start thinking more about practicality and less about what other people think of what they have on.