How to Dress Professionally as a Young Female Doctor

by Zoe Maletta
Female physicians can wear what they want as long as long as professionalism trumps fashion when necessary.

Female physicians can wear what they want as long as long as professionalism trumps fashion when necessary.

After navigating medical school, residency, overnight shifts and other medical field challenges, the last thing a young female physician needs is to unwittingly wear a wardrobe that discredits her professionalism. According to a study published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association," many doctors do just that when they could be promoting more trust in the physician-patient relationships by simply dressing appropriately. Of the study's nearly 300 respondents, nearly all agreed that doctors should dress professionally while on duty, and that they associate doctors' wardrobe with levels of honesty and quality care. To strike a healthy balance between dressing like "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" or a party-loving Madonna, wear what you love to wear -- but keep a few guidelines in mind.

Dress to attract -- not distract. Dr. Erin Marcus, writing for "The New York Times," recalls a time when a female physician colleague frequently wore low-cut dresses, distracting her male counterparts when delivering otherwise thoughtful presentations. To attract attention to your professionalism and expertise, don't call attention to your physique. Make sure your dresses and skirts hit just above the knee or below, and wear tops that flatter rather than reveal your assets.

Save the stilettos. Even if you're an experienced stiletto-walker and you find them comfortable, it's best to save them for an evening out on the town rather than in the medical setting. Ballet flats, kitten heels, or stylish comfort shoes look great, don't give the "party-girl" impression, and keep your feet in shape for making patient rounds or running to the emergency room.

Accessorize appropriately. Your white lab jacket may cover a good bit of your style and your stethoscope may replace your finer baubles, but accessories are still a smart way to creatively express your fashion tastes while staying conservative in other wardrobe choices. Choose trendy eye-wear, invest in your favorite earrings, and add color with a scarf peeping out of your jacket or draped loosely below your stethoscope. Your white uniform can double as a background for stylish pins -- whimsical ones if you work with children, or well-designed ones that pay tribute to a hobby or special interest of yours. Your accessories can be conversation pieces, too, helping nervous patients get a more personal glimpse of the woman behind the medical chart.

Follow trends. While most colors work anytime and everywhere, some colors rise to the top of the color chart during certain fashion seasons. You can keep your physician attire fresh by updating your wardrobe with "new" colors each season or by donning stylish scarves, slacks, skirts and tops.

Be practical. Keep in mind the demands of your work-day when dressing for your shift. If you'll be washing and disinfecting your hands frequently, leave your bracelets and watches at home and wear short or three-quarter length sleeves. For hygiene purposes, wear closed-toe shoes to protect your feet from fluid spills. Also, avoid jewelry that could scratch or touch a patient while you get close to examine him.


  • Always follow the dress code posted by your clinic or hospital administration for physicians.

About the Author

Zoe Maletta writes on a variety of topics with special focus on leadership, careers and small business management. Professionally writing since 2007, her many publishers include "The Houston Chronicle", "Global Post Careers" and "The Nest." When she's not writing, Maletta enjoys making memories with family and participating in church ministry. Maletta holds both a B.S.and an M.A. in counseling.

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