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Does Branding Your Medical Practice Really Need to Extend as Far as Uniforms?

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We’ve discussed before on an individual basis for nurses how their attire to work can have a profound impact on how they’re viewed, but what about from a medical practice standpoint? Does branding and the image of your medical practice really need to go as far as uniforms? And not simply one uniform, but perhaps uniforms based on job title? The quick answer...YES!

Overall image as a medical professional

If you survey a group of medical professionals (be it nurses, doctors, therapists, etc.), they will all have their own opinion as to whether it matters or not if they have a uniform they wear to work. A typical uniform for a medical professional is a pair of scrubs, as you know. Depending on what medical practice you walk into, a medical professional may be wearing scrubs, white lab coats, or even plain street clothes. Those street clothes vary even further depending on whose office/clinic/urgent care/hospital you walk into. A nurse in one private practice may be in baggy, poor-fitting scrubs, in another they may be in custom-fit scrubs, and at yet another you may see a nurse looking like she’s at the gym...leggings, baggy t shirt,etc.

Case study on nursing attire and patient perception

As each of these different attire descriptions painted a specific image in your head, it does with the patients being seen in your medical facility as well! One publication by The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing discussed a study completed by Geisinger Medical Center in Pennsylvania, which revealed such as mentioned above regarding casual nursing attire. Common patient statements included things indicating that staff members appeared “ready for the gym” or dressed like they were “at the club,” not as professionals in a hospital. Not exactly the image you want your facility to portray, huh?

The study itself also stated, “Feedback from patient rounds, interactions with family members, and colleagues at other Magnet® healthcare organizations indicated uncertainty about who nursing care providers were and how to identify different levels of nursing personnel.”

I don’t know about you, but I would want the patients in my medical practice/hospital, to know and understand the expertise level of the healthcare provider they are speaking with!

The clothing prejudice doesn’t stop at nurses...doctors they’re looking at you too

One may believe that as long as they have their nursing and support staff in uniforms that correspond to their job title and expertise level, that their brand and how patients perceive their medical practice is now rock solid. Think again. Another survey covers patients’ preferences regarding the professional attire of their actual doctors.

The survey examined patient preference for doctors to wear white coats and included four pictures of the same doctor in different attire: traditional white coat, bare-below-the-elbow attire, a white coat with scrubs, and scrubs by themselves. Survey subjects scored images head-to-head for their preferences, individually for their confidence in the physician's skills, and for their comfort level with the physician determined by the displayed attire. Participants' perceptions were then reevaluated after they were given information about potential disease transmission.

So what were the findings from this survey you ask? Well, regardless of theoretical data stating the potential for patient-to-patient disease transmission, patients want those traditional white coats on their doctors. Below is a direct quote from the findings of the survey:

“Overall, 69.9% of the 153 patients surveyed preferred doctors to wear white coats. When locations were compared, a statistically higher proportion of outpatients preferred coats (P=0.001), a trend most pronounced between hospital clinic (84%) and ward inpatients (51.9%). Patients disliked bare-below-the-elbow attire, scoring it lowest on the comfort and confidence scales (0.05 and 0.09, respectively). Information regarding risks of coat-carried infections did not influence respondents' opinions; 86.9% would still feel comfortable with a doctor who wore one.”

To sum up the last two sections, patients overall prefer nurses in scrub attire that indicates their level of nursing (i.e. custom fit scrubs that dispaly “R.N” on them), and doctors wearing professional attire with a traditional white coat over their clothes.

So that covers patient perception and preference, but what does that have to do with the branding of my medical practice.

Good question! I can’t think of any other profession, other than maybe an attorney, who would be judged more than a medical professional for their appearance. Obviously, it’s pretty self-explanatory that one might trust a nurse more in nice custom scrubs over a nurse in leggings and a t shirt. Aside from patient preference though, it can have an immense impact on your branding. Think about it. If you have a nurse in your medical practice in frumpy clothing ( be it baggy scrubs, or too casual street clothes), or doctors in bare-below-the-elbow attire, the image projected to your patients becomes symbolic of your brand.

If you spend tons of money on marketing, PR, making sure your online presence signifies nothing except pure professionalism, why would you then allow for patients to come in the door and look around and think, “Is this the same place I saw online?”. I’ve definitely had the experience of researching a place and being a bit baffled of how inconsistent their online branding seemed to be with their in-person branding.

It’s like booking a 5 Star hotel online that has images of fancy suites and concierge service, only to be completely put off when you walk in and it looks like a Motel 6! Maybe it’s an awesome Motel 6, and if you knew that was what you were getting you might have been okay with it (or maybe not). But now you envisioned such grandeur, you are completely and utterly disappointed. This my friends is inconsistent branding, and really more false advertisement. What you see is NOT what you get!

Solution

Even if your medical practice is completely behind the theory of patient-to-patient transmission from lab coats, you can at least take control over your brand and how professional you and your staff are viewed as. Although, YOUnique scrubs does offer traditional white coats.

First, come up with the colors that represent you and your medical practice. Then take the worry out of what your staff is going to show up in. Are their scrubs too tight, too baggy, too long, too short? At YOUnique Scrubs we offer programs for companies just like yours. You can view our Bausch & Lomb page for an example of how we can set up a page for you where your employees can go on, pick only the approved colors and styles you want, and input their measurements. Then you can rest assured your entire staff has a professional looking, branded, custom scrubs to represent you and your practice in. 

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