People care about how we look

Barb Lawrie | August 17th, 2016

It has been about two months since the Professional Image: First Impressions Count guidelines came out. The new guidelines cover the expectations for clothing, nails, hair, jewelry and accessories as well as the implementation of larger more legible name tags for those with in-person contact with patients or family members. There will also be optional VCH-branded work clothing available beginning this fall, for online purchase at discount prices. The guidelines are intended to improve the patient experience through better identification of roles and individuals and through a consistent professional image.

People care about how we look

We have had a significant amount of feedback on the guidelines; some very favourable and some not so much. At the end of the day this is really all about our patients. Interesting to me, the largest volume of complaints we hear from patients is not about the care they receive but rather how we look when we provide that care. Some of us might think this is superficial or not important but, to our patients, how we look reflects a level of professionalism that can provide comfort when their lives are literally in our hands.

Who’s my health provider?

In a recent complaint that came across my desk I was reminded of just how important a professional image is.The complaint came from a patient who received treatment for an acute episode. She described getting excellent care.  However, the person administering this care was wearing yoga pants, a t-shirt and a headband in her hair. The patient described feeling “panicky” as she was not sure this was a health care provider.  Although the person providing care had a lanyard and identification, the patient was unable to read it.

What do you think?

Given this is about patients and providing the best care, do you think our new guidelines will improve the patient experience? Leave your comments below.

View the guidelines

About the Author

Barb Lawrie
email iconbarb.lawrie@vch.ca  

Barb is vice president of Professional Practice and Chief Clinical Information Officer. She oversees professional practice across VCH and provides leadership to clinicians to achieve the essential “clinical transformation” within our Clinical and Systems Transformation (CST) project.

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10 comments on “People care about how we look

  • Tracy says:

    My biggest pet peeve in any area of clinical or clerical work is yoga pants!
    I also feel staff that non clinical staff who wear scrubs should be clearly identified (ie: housekeeing).
    As a clerical employee I chose to give up scrubs years ago. I feel that it better identifies me to patient’s that I am not a nurse or caregiver.

  • Lucy says:

    If you’re going to require employees to dress a certain way you need to provide and launder those clothes.

    • Rennie says:

      Thanks for your comment Lucy. I believe you are correct about required uniforms needing to be supplied and laundered by the employer, however these guidelines do not require uniforms. There will be VCH branded work clothing available for purchase at discount prices, but not required. An online store for the VCH work clothing will be launched this fall.

  • Barb Lawrie says:

    It seems from the comments we are not off the mark …how we look in the workplace matters to both our pateints and staff. Thank you

  • Respect says:

    I also agree that there needs to be some guidelines regarding the dress code for VCH staff.
    However, we all need to remember the respect in the workplace aspect of our co-workers and judging someones attire might be a personal judgement as to what is acceptable in your eyes. There should be a baseline for what VCH standards require onsite but on the flip side, do not admonish the staff that strive to come to work in an acceptable manner according to their means. Leave the “people watching” past time to off work hours and let the manager discreetly manage the inappropriate clothing issue. Bottom line, we all deserve privacy and respect in our place of work.

  • Ruth Chesson says:

    I too am very glad to see these guidelines being “re-introduced” to VCH; however, I have noticed that there is absolutely no “enforcement” of the dress codes in my workplace, and many staff still come to work looking as though they are going to the laundromat or cornerstore, and sometimes, to a nightclub. The “offenders” are often our casual staff so I am not sure if they don’t feel that these guidelines apply to them. Just like not wearing hospital id, if there is no enforcement then people will continue to do as they please.

  • Sheena Fraser says:

    How you care and present yourself in some way demonstrates through perception, how you care for your clients. I guess I’m “old school” but I’m so pleased to see this guideline being promoted! I’ve had many positive responses with our new name tags, and it contributes to a profession appearance. I remember the days when it was severely frowned upon to be seen in uniform outside the perimeter of the hospital grounds. This wasn’t just professional pride but prevention of sharing the treasures we can carry with us when we leave the worksite.
    With thanks and support!

  • Debbie Osti says:

    “How we look” just doesn’t apply to the hospital grounds. I drive to work down Broadway every day and pass Broadway and Willow close to 0700. There is a bus stop there and more often than not, several hospital employees will rush off the bus and dash across the street without regard for their own safety. I’ve seen some raise the middle finger to drivers who honk in their frustration. Since many are wearing their uniforms, drivers know exactly where they are going. Not exactly a good impression.

  • Zerlina Chan says:

    I think that while displaying a professional image to the public is important, it is equally important to look the same for orientation and for meetings. I think that we should be wearing casual yet office-like clothing for any meetings display a respect for the work environment. I see so many new hires wearing shorts, jeans, tank tops with flip flops to orientation that I think are inappropriate as the scenario should still be regarded as part of the hiring process. I wonder what the public thinks about nurses who come into hospital expecting to be part of training for a new job wearing red bra under a white tank top.

    • Barb Lawrie says:

      Thanks Zerlina, Agree it is the workplace…maybe our great west coast lifestyle has us a little too relaxed and underdressed at work. In an environment where casual dress codes have, in general, relaxed to the point where seeing the founder and CEO of a multibillion-dollar company sporting a hoodie is no biggie – the line between business casual and weekend comfy has become downright blurry. In the topsy-turvy world of casual dress codes, the answer is usually: “It depends.” Perhaps the thing to consider and instill in all of us is “It matters” Some workers may view the company dress code as old-school and out-of-touch. They may argue that they should be judged on the quality of their work, not how they dress.
      But in the real world, professionals are evaluated – whether consciously or unconsciously – on the clothes they wear. You don’t want to be judged on the basis of something so silly as dress. Blowing it with a casual dress code can have a bottom-line, in your example you will remember that staff member and it has left a lasting impression. One, I guess that was not intended. Perhaps that age old cliché. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have still holds true in today’s more casual office environment. Our guidelines here at VCH were intended to be flexible since there are many different situations and jobs, and we hope staff will discuss appropriate application of the guidelines for them.

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