Not many professions are defined by their clothes like a medical doctor. When someone sees a white lab coat, they immediately think of doctors, if not scientists. The white lab coat represented scientific and medical knowledge. It exuded trustworthiness and gained authority from patients and peers.

However, in modern days, the dress code for physicians has become more flexible. It’s a constantly shifting landscape and we now wonder what is the proper attire for doctors.

Like many industries, doctors no longer have a universal dress code to follow. Every hospital or clinic may have guidelines established for their physicians’ attire. However, the final decision is still up to the doctors. 

If they’re confused about what to do, they can consider these three things. They should think about their employer’s guidelines and their personal preferences. Finally, they should consider how their patients will view them in their attire.

Let’s continue discussing these notions about doctor’s attire in-depth below.

Medical Scrubs vs. Professional Attire

Two thoughts come to mind when you’re choosing between wearing medical scrubs or professional attire for the day. One is whether your patients will find you trustworthy or professional based on your attire. The other is if you’ll be comfortable for your entire shift, especially if you’ll be moving all day.

However, one thing is certain and that’s how a doctor’s attire establishes the first impression of doctor-patient interaction. If you see a doctor who’s wearing medical attire, you’ll feel that they’re someone you can rely on.

In the case of first impressions, medical scrubs no doubt evoke that emotion from patients. However, if you’ve known the doctor for some time, you normally wouldn’t mind if he wore comfortable yet professional attire instead. For example, if the person is your family doctor or primary care doctor.

How Modern Scrubs Are Changing the Medical Dress Code

Medical scrubs weren’t always how we saw them today. Before they were revamped, they were shapeless and unflattering pieces of clothing. But we now have tailored scrubs in different styles and colors. 

Modern technology and trends have turned medical scrubs into professional and comfortable attire. The professionals found them more appealing because of that.

Of course, when you look up “family doctors near me”, you’ll find their profiles with images. Some of them would be in professional attire and some may be in scrubs. It’s still common for some physicians to wear dresses, dress pants, and heels to work. They’re viewed more professionally by their patients that way.

The problem with wearing dress pants and skirts is that their fabric usually needs dry cleaning. But these clothes can last for decades if properly maintained, unlike scrubs that need to be replaced every few years.

Are Scrubs Considered Business-Casual Attire?

The new tailored scrubs that we mentioned above may not count as business-casual. The person who wears them can be perceived as polished and professional. However, if your boss were to ask you to attend a gathering in business-casual attire, you won’t wear scrubs.

If you’re attending a hospital orientation and you’re supposed to wear business-casual, you probably won’t turn to scrubs either. Even more so if the scrubs were the shapeless and unflattering ones. 

It doesn’t matter how well-tailored or flattering your scrubs are. There’s a time and place to wear them. For example, as a primary care physician who meets with patients, especially those you want to build trust.

Factors that Influence How a Doctor Should Dress

A surgeon and a family doctor will certainly dress differently. There are factors you should consider about how you should dress. For example, are you a physician or a dentist? Your medical field is one fact that dictates your dress code.

A dermatologist and a radiologist have different work situations. They have different patients and some doctors interact with patients more than others. That’s why before you decide what to wear, consider your medical field and who you cater to.

Secondly, you should think about your work environment. If you’re a dentist who caters to rich patients, you should look professional and presentable. If you work in a laboratory, you need to look pristine and clean. Your clothes need to match your work environment, including the types of patients you face daily.

Finally, the culture of where you work matters. We’re not just talking about office culture but the culture of the country where you work. It can also mean the culture of your patients. After all, your goal is to gain their trust so you’d want to avoid appearing otherwise.

For example, you might find that Americans over fifty years old trust formally dressed doctors more. Meanwhile, younger generation Americans prefer the less formal physicians.

Health Factors to Keep in Mind when Donning Professional Attire

Many women in the medical field choose to wear professional attire and heels. Wearing heels can negatively impact their health in the long run, especially if worn for long periods. It can result to back pain and restrict blood circulation.

Additionally, the wearer can develop bunions from wearing heels. This is because the toes are unnaturally positioned and the pressure will instead be on the balls of the feet. High heels can also gradually misalign their spine and place too much pressure on their knees.


There’s no global standard or rule to a doctor’s attire as long as it establishes trust between them and the patient. Doctors can choose to wear medical scrubs or professional attire, especially with how scrubs are more presentable now.

However, there are factors to consider when a doctor is choosing what to wear. For example, scrubs don’t count as business-casual attire so they’re not fit for hospital orientations and other semi-formal events.

Daily, doctors need to consider their medical field to decide on their attire. What kind of patients do they cater to? What is their work environment and what are the rules of the establishment? The patients’ culture must also be considered when deciding on attire so that the doctor won’t offend them.

Even a family doctor needs to have some semblance of formality when he sees his patients. Just because he’s already trusted by the family doesn’t mean he should look shabby and lose their trust.