How To Dress Like A Doctor

Sometimes it's just the way you look.

The modern-day physician is changing. Some have moved beyond the traditional scope of practice and are to be considered "Instagram famous" where looks can be deceiving. It is a slow transformation in the realm of the way a physician looks but despite this adjustment, some things will never change.

Call me old school, but there are still some tried-and-true medical covenants which have lasted the test of time. Don't just take my word for it, recent studies back me up.

Patients still want physicians to look like, well, their stereotypical physician. Do a quick Google Image search for the word ‘physician’. You’ll see a common theme. The white coat has lasted the test of time – since the late 1800’s! It was one of the first external fixtures which have helped to define a physician without any introduction. It continues to serve as a symbol of medical knowledge, care, and improving health.

For me as an emergency and trauma physician, every day is a new experience and I have to work quick on my feet. I need clothing that's going to work with me, not against me.

My uniform at work tends to be fluid. My base is always a pair of Medelita Element scrubs. The material has the give that I need as I bounce between rooms and the lasting professional look for a non-stop 12-hour shift. Simply put, I need something that’s going to keep up and going to work as hard as I do.

My tailored lab coat has a tendency of coming on and off throughout the day (I'm a fan of the Bernard Slim Fit style). I use it for the most important of interactions whether it’s breaking bad news or giving that extra feel of confidence I need as I walk into my next patient experience.


"You’re too young to be a doctor!”

I’m not sure if I should take that as a compliment, an insult, or a statement of uncertainty but that line is something that my recently graduated attending colleagues and I have come to accept daily. Sure, I don’t have the face of a seasoned attending entering their final decade of practice, but I’ve come to realize that it’s the small things that can help me stand out and gain my patient’s trust and respect.

Here’s my rundown to help ensure my patients can feel confident when I’m treating them:

・Stand up straight

・Have wrinkle free scrubs (nothing says college dorm than wrinkled clothes)

・Speak slowly and with confidence

・Smile (if they’re seeing you in the ED, they’re not having a good day)

・Wear your white coat as often as you can

・Trust yourself and your training – you know your medicine!

・Don’t be afraid to show them that you care

You can’t hide from the numbers. A recent study showed that over 50% of patients believe physician attire was important during patient care and over one-third said it changed their satisfaction of the care they experienced. If you haven’t heard, patient satisfaction is a big metric for today’s hospital systems and sometimes it’s the small things that can make a big difference.

About the author:

Rajiv Bahl, MD, MBA, MS is an emergency medicine physician in Central Florida. He completed his training in Georgia and Ohio and has spent time working on political campaigns on a national platform. Currently, he is a FCEP Leadership Academy Candidate and freelance writer for outlets such as HealthLine and ABC News. You can find him on Instagram and his website