July 1987

Patients' and Physicians' Attitudes Regarding the Physician's Professional Appearance

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Family Practice and Community Health, University of Minnesota Medical School, St Paul (Drs Gjerdingen and Titus), and the Department of Family Practice, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (Dr Simpson).

Arch Intern Med. 1987;147(7):1209-1212. doi:10.1001/archinte.1987.00370070023002

• Although physician appearance has been a topic of interest to medical historians for more than two centuries, little objective investigation has been made into patients' and physicians' attitudes toward the physician's appearance. This study analyzed responses from 404 patients, residents, and staff physicians regarding their attitudes toward various aspects of the male and female physician's professional appearance. Positive responses from all participants were associated with traditional items of dress such as the dress, shirt and tie, dress shoes, and nylons, and for physician-identifying items such as a white coat and a name tag. Negative responses were associated with casual items such as blue jeans, scrub suits, athletic shoes, clogs, and sport socks. Negative ratings were also associated with overly feminine items such as prominent ruffles and female dangling earrings and such temporarily fashionable items as long hair on men, male earrings, and patterned hose on women. Overall, patients were less discriminating in their attitude toward physician appearance than physicians. Patients rated traditional items less positively and casual items less negatively. This study confirms the importance of the physician's appearance in physician-patient communication.

(Arch Intern Med 1987;147:1209-1212)