December 7, 2022

Bring back the tie?

Did British medicine go down the gurgler after doctors stopped wearing ties?

Did British medicine go down the gurgler after doctors stopped wearing ties? A comment by microbiologist Stephanie J Dancer, stirred up a lively debate in the BMJ. Dr Dancer complains:

“Now many junior doctors have abandoned formal wear in favour of T shirts and the like. I hear that patients complain that they do not know who the doctor is: no tie, no white coat, no jacket, and no presence. Doctors are members of a distinguished profession and should dress accordingly. Untidiness erodes the image of doctors as responsible and competent…

“Maybe junior doctors do not understand the real meaning of cleanliness. Easy access to antibiotics has eroded the importance of basic hygiene over the past half century…

“The lack of the tie is not just a visual wave in the direction of infection control. Nor is it another tick in a box on the audit clipboard. “No tie” — along with stubble, spitting, picking your nose, and gravity defying trousers—symbolise the real status of hygiene in today’s society.”

Most of the responses to the article supported Dr Dancer, although a number of students and junior doctor indignantly rebutted her claims. Not all of them took the issue as seriously as she did. “I would far rather be attended to by a scruffy doctor than one suited and booted,” one doctor wrote. “After all, a patient will have scant confidence if their attending doctor is seen to be dressed to kill.”

Michael Cook
Creative commons
professional standards