What should I wear to work?

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One of the things I enjoy a lot paediatrics training is the generally softer and more informal ‘child friendly’ approach we have. Lots of research has gone into making children’s wards and environments brighter, more fun and appealing. But what about us?

It seemed to me that, for children at least, as healthcare professionals we were strangers, without an obvious, identifiable role. That first impression we give before we even approach the child must be quite confusing. Dr Brown Bear, Doc Mc Stuffins and Dr Ranj all wear white coats, they are always friendly, smiley and make you better. We don’t. Pre-COVID, it was only really our emergency colleagues who wore scrubs

So, in the pre-COVID era, I created a study (yes a real actual research project) where we surveyed 50 children using the images below.

Interestingly, the outcome was not only what I suspected, but also, COVID convenient. The favourite overall (and the most ‘friendly’) outfit chosen by the children was blue scrubs. The outfit I called ‘office attire’, smart trousers/shirt but not formal suit and tie, came out as the least desirable outfit. You may appear more clever in a suit and tie, but not particularly trustworthy or friendly. Individual comments gave a window into their choices, scrubs apparently allowed us to run faster to help them, and allowed us to sleep better so that we would not be tired and ‘be better doctors’. 

As for those in ‘office attire’, unfortunately you are the least trusted, least clever and least friendly, but the most scary

As for the age-old white coat, it’s not scary and actually, those who wear them appear quite trustworthy. Perhaps a reflection of what children see in the modern media, they trust Dr Ranj & Doc Mc Stuffins.

 In summary, I’m sticking to scrubs, and look forward to the day when I can add a (short sleeved of course) white coat.

Ref: The study was published in the EMJ (ok, the supplement but it still counts right?) but annoyingly doesn’t have a DOI, please feel free to email me for a digital copy of it. 

About the authors

  • A Wessex Paeds trainee hoping to sub-specialise in PEM. Mother of 2, fuelled mostly by coffee and cake

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