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Ann Emerg Med. 1989 Feb;18(2):145-51.

Attitudes of patients and physicians regarding physician dress and demeanor in the emergency department.

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  • 1Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Veterans Administration Medical Center, Portland.


To compare the opinions of patients and physicians regarding physician dress and demeanor in the emergency department, we conducted a cross-sectional survey of 190 ED patients and 129 medical specialists, family practitioners, surgeons, and emergency physicians in a community hospital. Seventy-three percent of physicians and 43% of patients thought that physical appearance influenced patient opinion of medical care. Forty-nine percent of patients believed emergency physicians should wear white coats, but only 18% disliked scrub suits. Patients were more tolerant of casual dress than were physicians. Both groups disliked excessive jewelry, prominent ruffles or ribbons, long fingernails, blue jeans, and sandals. Opinions and practices of emergency physicians were similar to those of other medical specialists. Most physicians (96%) addressed patients by surname or title, but 43% of patients preferred being called by their first names. The age, gender, income, and education of patients did not influence how they wished to be addressed. Larger studies are needed to assess the influence of age, sex, race, and depth of feeling regarding first-name address and physician attire in the ED.

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