An article about clothing might easily be dismissed as trivial. But research has shown that dress can be very important in the signals it sends, especially for people who work with the public. People are judged by the clothes they wear. Others form opinions about a person’s knowledge, credibility and trustworthiness by how the person is dressed.
How a pharmacist is dressed can affect their relationship with patients. This leads to the question of what the best attire is for community pharmacists to wear. As casual dress has gained more acceptance in the workplace, the attire pharmacists wear these days can range from casual to more businesslike dress to the more formal white coat.
While the white coat symbolizes professionalism for some, others believe it intimidates patients more than anything else and avoid wearing it. This is the reason psychiatrists especially have given up the white coat.
Community pharmacists need to communicate a feeling of warmth and congeniality, and yet they also need to have an aura of professionalism. So, some recommend a more casual dress, but discourage anything too informal. For example, they do not see the need for a tie, but a polo shirt is inappropriate.
Others also discourage too many colors, and recommend just a white shirt because white gives the image of authority.
However, one study that surveyed patients at both independent and chain pharmacies found they overwhelmingly chose a pharmacist with a white coat as the most professional and knowledgeable.
Many hospitals simply require their employees to present a professional image and leave it at that. But some pharmacists say if you are working in a clinic or hospital, at minimum you should wear business attire, unless you are working in a location where scrubs are more practical, such as an IV room. Pharmacists in business attire project an image of expertise, and patients are more likely to trust the pharmacist’s judgment.
Many hospital pharmacists still elect to go with the white coat while working or making rounds as a sign of their profession. Some also prefer to wear a tie. Others prefer to wear scrubs when working in a hospital or clinic.
White coats do not appear to be as prevalent as in the past for several reasons. One is infection control. White coats have been identified as possible sources of infection because they are not washed as frequently. Another is related to cultural changes. Hospitals are stressing teamwork among healthcare providers, the culture has become more collaborative and less hierarchical. In this environment, pharmacists go without the white coats because they see this attire as too formal.
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