Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Appearances Count, Even in the ICU: MDs in White Coats, Names Tags Preferred

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Appearances Count, Even in the ICU: MDs in White Coats, Names Tags Preferred

Article excerpt

Public likes docs in white coats: survey


TORONTO - Appearances count, it seems, even when a loved one's life may be hanging in the balance.

A new study shows that family members of people in hospital intensive care units place more trust in doctors who are well groomed, in a white coat or scrubs and wearing an easy-to-read name tag.

First author Dr. Selena Au said evidence suggests the public's expectations of what doctors should wear -- how doctors should look -- differs depending on where in the hospital they work.

In pediatrics, say, a white coat is a no-no. And in the emergency department, people don't seem to care what doctors are wearing; they just want to be helped.

But in the ICU, where patients are critically ill and families are often faced with heart-stopping news and gut-wrenching decisions, it appears people want to deal with professionals who look like the quintessential doctors portrayed on TV.

"I think more than anyone in the hospital, that we are having very intense discussions where we're talking about end-of-life care, where we may be talking about treatment options where decisions have to be made quickly," said Au, who is with the University of Calgary's department of critical care medicine.

"And so family members have to make some quick judgments as to whether or not they trust us.... So things that are part of non-verbal communications come into play quickly."

Au did the work with two colleagues from the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services, Calgary zone. The research was supported by a grant from Alberta Innovates and is published in this week's issue of the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

The team surveyed 337 people visiting family members in three Calgary-area ICUs between Nov. 1, 2010 and Oct. 31, 2011.

They asked people to rate in importance 10 factors related to the outward appearance of doctors in general, not specific physicians. Those factors were things like age, race, gender, dress, the presence or absence of a name tag, tattoos or visible piercings and overall first impression. …

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