To study patient preferences on physician attire and etiquette, we interviewed 200 patients on the general medical services of teaching hospitals in Boston and San Francisco. Of these 200 patients, 65% believed physicians should wear a white coat, 27% believed physicians should not wear tennis shoes, 52% believed physicians should not wear blue jeans, 37% believed male physicians should wear neckties, and 34% believed female physicians should wear dresses or skirts. Forty percent of patients wanted physicians to address them by first name, but only 10% of patients wanted to address their physicians by first name. A concurrent mailed survey of 74 medical house staff members at the two hospitals revealed wide variability in physicians' attire and in how patients were addressed at each institution. Thus, many house officers had habits that were less formal than a substantial portion of their patients preferred.
Dunn JJ, Lee TH, Percelay JM, Fitz JG, Goldman L. Patient and House Officer Attitudes on Physician Attire and Etiquette. JAMA. 1987;257(1):65–68. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03390010069031
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