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Dressing the Part: Is It Just as Important in Advancing Medical Careers?

Every day, we get bombarded by picture-perfect images of flawless aesthetics - and it seems like there is no getting away from it. We can’t turn on the television or scroll through our social media accounts without feeling pressured into submitting to what is expected of us. Naturally, we have to do what we need to do to make sure that the extent of this pressure is properly managed. For instance, if you start feeling like you are not worthy enough because you do not look like you just stepped off a magazine cover, then you need to recalibrate the way you respond to that pressure.

When it comes to professional success, however, it cannot be discounted that how we present ourselves is important to communicating certain things. Quite a few studies have noted that first impressions play a significant role in - to put it frankly - getting what we want. They are also incidental to establishing the foundation that we want, in our professional relationships.

If you’re hoping to make changes in your personal life, in fact, dressing the part may be able to significantly help. In an article published in Forbes last 2013, a non-profit project that was giving away clothes to those in need found that certain positive results have come about proper dressing. One woman who, at the time, recently got out of a difficult relationship found a new start in life with a wardrobe upgrade.

But what about for medical professionals? 

If you are a medical professional, will your professional appearance be as important? Let’s discuss.

The Importance of Dressing the Part in the Medical Field

The medical field is considered to be one of the most distinguished in the professional world, and it is only fitting that those who are lucky enough to be a part of the industry make sure that they live up to the standards set forth by the industry.

Dressing the part helps accomplish that efficiently, as it communicates that:

  • You recognize the duties and responsibilities accorded to your profession.
    The white coat is almost as universally recognized as a symbol of healthcare as the stethoscope. There is a reason why white coats have come to be recognized as a standard marker of respectability, and that is because the medical field is tasked to provide services and solutions that are integral to our survival. By dressing properly, you help ease the mind of those you connect with and let them know that you know what is expected of you, and you are willing to prove it.

  • You adhere to the established standards of your profession.
    Most of the time, what medical professionals wear while at work concerns functionality more than anything else. Still, what you wear influences the way your patients may perceive you. A survey by a non-profit media organization The Conversation found that more than half of the medical professionals they talked to have admitted that they believe a proper dress code may be significant to setting first impressions. Additionally, studies have indicated that patients prefer their doctors and other medical professionals to don formal clothing and whitecoats than any other type of clothing.

Why Dressing the Part Is Integral to Success

So now we know why dressing the part is important for operating well within the medical setting, where your patients are concerned. But will it have any significant impact in advancing your career?

A study conducted for the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that people who dress better tend to fare better in high-stakes situations, compared to those who are dressed casually. In this study, the participants were taken through mock negotiations geared towards the sale of a hypothetical factory, wearing different types of clothing. By the end of the study, those in suits had an average profit of $2.1M over $680, 000 of those in sweats.

Another study noted that what people wear influences the way they behave. As published in the Social Psychological and Personality Science journal, those who are dressed more formally have been found to engage in deeper levels of abstract thinking than those who are dressed casually. This will be very instrumental in situations where critical thinking is necessary, such as deploying decisions from executive positions. In addition, those in suits tended to see the bigger picture more easily than those who are in casual attire.

These psychological plays - internal and external - of dressing well cannot be discounted. In the medical field, especially, executing decisions require thinking on your feet most of the time. If you are hoping for a promotion, specifically, you need to be able to relay that you have what it takes to make it work. Dressing for success in such a case may exactly be the starting point that you need to attain that success.

Other Important Things to Remember

All that said, it is important to remember where and when to draw the line between dressing to impress and express and dressing well just because. If you are a medical professional, donning your white suit outside of the hospital floors and corridors will not exactly be the best way to communicate trustworthiness and respectability. Similarly, slipping into a tailored suit (under your white coat) may work well in your clinic or in the boardroom, but it has no place on a pediatric ward.

It is also necessary to make sure that you understand the power that your clothing carries. Do not be misled into trying to fit into a system that you don’t quite agree with; and do not force yourself to tick boxes that are not personally preferable to you. Remember that there is a time and place for everything, especially your clothing, and it is best to use your own likes and dislikes as the base reference for how you do things.

If you are unsure about how you can go about starting to dress the part, too, you can always ask the right point person or department. For instance, if the hospital or medical facility you are hoping to join or impress has already got a strict dress code in place, it will hardly be efficient if you show up in something that is not adherent to what has already been established.


About the author:

M Pimentel is a happily married Filipino mother to three wonderful little daughters, ages: 8 years, 5 years, and 4 months old. Her daily life is a struggle between being the Executive Content Director for Project Female and deciding who gets to watch television next. She specializes in creating and editing content for female empowerment, parenting, beauty, health/nutrition, and lifestyle. As the daughter of two very hardworking people, she was brought up with strict traditional Asian values and yet embraces modern trends like Facebook, vegan cupcakes, and the occasional singing cat video.