White Coat Beats Casuals in Patient Perceptions, With Gender Caveats

The study details also expose entrenched biases, with females fewer generally discovered as health professionals irrespective of attire.

A health practitioner who wears a conventional white coat appears much more professional and knowledgeable in contrast with one who is dressed in far more casual apparel, in accordance to new survey info. That said, biases to the detriment of women physicians keep on being blatant no matter of what they wear.

“Physician attire is only a smaller component of the practice of drugs and does not embody the wearer’s qualifications, nor does it automatically have an impact on their efficiency, practice, and contributions,” publish guide author Helen Xun, MD (Johns Hopkins University University of Medicine, Baltimore, MD), and colleagues. “However, as health practitioner attire evolves, the health care community must be attuned to the prospective associations attire could have with the key aim of the occupation to supply excellent patient care.”

The paper, released on the web last 7 days forward of print in JAMA Network Open, is the most current to address attire and professionalism in healthcare. Last years’ #MedBikini paper spurred discussion about medical professionals posting pictures of by themselves in “inappropriate attire” on social media.

But in the clinic, affected individual perceptions issue, as medical professional attire is joined with “building rapport with patients, cutting down pitfalls of nosocomial pathogen transmission, and speaking physicians’ role in affected individual care,” the authors produce. “Physicians in everyday health practitioner apparel need to be conscious of the various impression they may possibly give to clients as opposed with physicians in a white coat and mitigate this as a result of other solutions of making patient rapport.”

Amalia Cochran, MD (Bozeman, MT), who co-wrote an accompanying editorial with Gilbert R. Upchurch Jr, MD (University of Florida Wellbeing, Gainesville), explained to TCTMD that the study “provides an vital contribution in terms of highlighting the fact that there is a diversity of views out there in conditions of what constitutes qualified attire—that you can find not just one one correct solution to that question—and sadly for girls doctors, it type of didn’t make a difference what we confirmed up in. There was nevertheless the ‘wait for the doctor’ question that arrived into engage in.”

Does this suggest that gals ought to exhibit up to do the job in whichever they want? Probably, Cochran stated. “Perhaps the [fact] that there really wasn’t a distinct-slash solution for women of all ages really does still spotlight a great deal of unconscious bias that is nevertheless present regarding the role of women as physicians, which is unfortunate, but that is just a little something that can take time. And then I consider the other piece of that is that for ladies, perhaps we really do have a broader bandwidth in phrases of what we really should wear, due to the fact if a white coat is just not automatically supplying us any additional cachet, possibly we ought to sort of make our individual regulations.”

‘A Disruptive Opportunity’

Relaxed attire, described in this study as possibly fleece or softshell jackets normally emblazoned with an institution’s insignia, was affiliated with lower perceptions of equally professionalism and expertise as opposed with white coats, according to 487 respondents to the on the web graphic survey despatched out concerning May well and June 2020.

Attire Comparison


White Coat



P Price





< 0.001





< 0.001

The preferred outfit changed according to specialty, with respondents reacting most positively to a white coat with scrubs for surgeons and a white coat with business attire for family physicians and dermatologists.

Notably, regardless of what women wore in the survey images, respondents rated them as less professional than men (56.2 vs 65.8 P < 0.001). When dressed similarly in white coats with business wear, female and male models were most frequently identified as physicians, although men were thought to be doctors more often than women (71.7% vs 88.3% P < 0.001). In contrast to the male model, for example, the female model was mistaken by more respondents as a medical technician (8.0% vs 3.3% P < 0.005), physician assistant (11.5% vs 2.3% P < 0.001), or nurse (33.1% vs 27.3% P = 0.050).

“The introduction of new physician attire presents a disruptive opportunity to address persistent gender biases in medicine,” Xun and colleagues write. “With exposure and education, public perception of physicians can be broadened to reflect increasing diversity as the new status quo. This includes clear identification of professional roles during introductions, immediate correction of role misidentifications, and increased visibility (such as more diverse representation at all levels of training spotlight features representation on boards, as speakers, and in leadership positions and presence on social media).”

Tradition, Practicality

Cochran said she has noticed more physicians moving away from the white coat, suggesting that certain regions may be less tied to the tradition or that this attire might not be practical for specific specialties. “I have practiced for the bulk of my career in the West, and specifically in the Mountain West, and I felt like white coats were largely out of favor amongst my colleagues. Not just my surgeon colleagues, not just my critical care colleagues, but across the board.”

There is a diversity of opinions out there in terms of what constitutes professional attire . . . and unfortunately for women physicians, it kind of didn’t matter what we showed up in. Amalia Cochran

Moving away from the white coat is a good thing, she continued. “It does help to smooth the power differential between the physician and patients and families to not have it. . . . There are times, of course, that you as a physician would perhaps want to be recognized for your expertise and your knowledge and your experience. I think that’s understandable. But hopefully that can be done through really thoughtful conversations with patients and family members and perhaps it doesn’t require that marker that a white coat has traditionally been thought to provide for us.”

There does still remain the question of whether white coats may enable infection to spread more easily in the hospital setting, Cochran acknowledged. “The data around that is equivocal, it’s imperfect. But I think at least acknowledging that there is that possibility is another reason that people in critical care environments have stepped back from wearing white coats,” she said.

Ultimately, the evolution of professionalism in medicine is ongoing and attire is only part of that.

“One of the challenges that I really see us having is that a lot of us want to think about professionalism as something that’s positive, and that’s creating an inclusive culture and a place of civility and kindness,” Cochran said. “But I also know there are times, particularly in education, that professionalism is being weaponized, and if someone acts in a way or dresses in a way that you don’t think is quite right, . . . boy it’s a fine line sometimes. I think we’re all definitely trying to navigate that professionalism space in a way that it’s supportive of everybody and really acknowledging that times are changing still, and this is one piece of that. I think #MedBikini is one piece of that. I think any time these professionalism questions come up, they get really complicated, really quickly.”

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