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From: The Rheumatologist, November 2011

Dressing Down in Scrubs

Why rheumatologists should consider making this the uniform of choice

by Ronan Kavanagh, MD

In the last year, I’ve taken to wearing theatre scrubs at work instead of my usual suit, shirt, and tie attire. This was initially because I started cycling to work and it was simply too much hassle to put clean shirts in my backpack or drop clean clothes at the office over the weekend. After a few days of wearing them in my clinic, I haven’t gone back.

Because scrubs are usually the preserve of better-paid medical specialists such as surgeons, anaesthetists, and cardiologists, people tend to look twice when they see a rheumatologist wearing them. Once you get over the funny looks and questions, though, wearing them has had some unexpected bonuses that I’d like to share.

1. Comfort

Scrubs are comfortable to wear, cool, and make me feel much more relaxed than a stuffy shirt and tie.

2. Hygiene

As a rheumatologist, I perform minor surgical procedures (such as joint injections) for most of my working day as part of my clinic. These require a degree of sterility. Scrubs are almost certainly more hygienic than my suit and most certainly more hygienic than my favorite tie, which I bought four years ago (it looks and smells fine but has never been to the dry cleaners—and it has certainly never been inside an autoclave).

3. Less ironing

No more ironing shirts for work because my scrubs are processed in the hospital. Although I would normally do all of my ironing myself, my wife is delighted, too. For me, you understand.

4. Far less money spent on suits and ties

Prior to this I would have bought a couple of suits each year, a few ties, and work shirts. Because I don’t wear suits and ties outside of work, I haven’t bought any this year at all.

For those physicians among you thinking about doing it, just go for it. … If changing what you wear to work is the most adventurous thing you do this year, you should probably get out more.

5. Looking important

Unfortunately, rheumatologists are not always taken as seriously as we should be in the pecking order of hospital medical hierarchy. While wearing scrubs, other physicians, surgeons, and nursing staff seem to treat me more deferentially because they mistake me for a surgeon or interventional cardiologist. Although I’m still waiting for my income to increase accordingly, my new outfit makes me look like I mean business, and that I’m on my way to something more pressing than a rheumatology clinic), I find it easier to jump the queue in the canteen.

6. Patients don’t mind

Patients don’t seem to care either way. As long as you treat them well and come up with the goods, most don’t mind how you’re dressed (up to a point). I explain to them it’s for all of the reasons above (but not necessarily the reasons listed below).

7. Early de-stressing from the work environment

Putting the scrubs on in the morning and taking them off in the evening allows you to treat them as a kind of theatrical costume. I “get into character” by putting them on and then “get out of character” by taking them off. Removing your work clothes before leaving work allows you to divest yourself of any unpleasant work associations before you leave the building and facilitates an early start to your out-of-hours relaxation time. I have also found that being dressed in my shorts, t-shirt, and cycle helmet is a deterrent to colleagues thinking of asking me to do that last-minute consult on my way home for the evening. It’s harder to say no in a suit.

The Bottom Line

For those physicians among you thinking about doing it, just go for it. You’ll feel more relaxed, do less ironing, spend less time shopping for suits, and you might even get home sooner. If changing what you wear to work is the most adventurous thing you do this year, you should probably get out more. the rheumatologist

Dr. Kavanagh is a rheumatologist in private practice at Western Rheumatology in Galway, Ireland. He also runs The Musicians’ Clinic in Galway. This article was originally published on his blog, www.ronankavanagh.wordpress.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @ronantkavanagh.

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