Patients' perspectives on how doctors dress

J Hosp Infect. 2010 Jan;74(1):30-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2009.08.021. Epub 2009 Nov 14.


Infection in hospitals is a serious problem. Attempting to address the spread of infection, many UK National Health Service trusts have adopted a 'bare-below-the-elbows' and tie-less dress-code policy. This followed publication of Department of Health guidelines on staff uniforms in September 2007. Although the potential for colonisation of clothing with pathogens has been investigated, patients' opinions on dress-code and policy change have not. This survey of 75 patients in Great Western Hospital, Swindon, UK, used questionnaires to address this. The survey showed that, although patients did feel that doctors' dress was important, neckties and white coats were not expected. Moreover, surgical scrubs were considered acceptable forms of attire. Problems of identifying doctors and determining their grade were repeatedly raised. Patients were generally unaware of the new dress-code, and few knew anything of its relationship to infection control. This work demonstrates that more 'traditional' dress is not expected. Given the problems of identification and perception of surgical scrubs as suitable, their introduction as a 'uniform for doctors' should be considered. Furthermore, work needs to be done to advertise policy change and increase patient awareness of infection control.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Clothing / psychology*
  • Female
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • United Kingdom
  • Young Adult