CSM 2012 Preview: Sharp-Dressed Therapists
Several months ago, the powers that be at ADVANCE (aka, our bosses) decided to allow a more casual dress code for our offices. The decision was met with cheers, as we all envisioned being more comfortable in looser sweaters, well-worn jeans and "practical" shoes. And while we are a bit more at ease while sitting our desks in front of computers, it doesn't escape many of us that we wouldn't necessarily go out to see clients, or even attend a conference as a representative of our publications, dressed as casually as we can be in the office.
Even professions such as physical therapy have to consider dress codes and what they project to others outside the field. Which is perhaps why the discussion "What You Wear to Work: Appropriate Attire for Our Doctoring Profession," will be presented at APTA's Combined Sections Meeting next month on Saturday, February 11, featuring speakers Janice Kuperstein, PT, PhD, MSEd, Susan E. Roush, PT, PhD, Debbie A. Ingram, PT, EdD and Nancy Fell, PT, PhD, NCS.
Physical therapy has become a doctoring profession, so it would seem that when therapists encounter patients in either hospital or clinic settings, their appearance will have a more emphatic effect on how patients will perceive the quality of their care. Literature indicates that patients of other doctoring professions prefer more formal attire, but traditionally, the preferred attire for the physical therapists typically is more casual-khaki pants, Polo shirts or t-shirts, even shorts or sweats in some cases. The course will start dialogue within the profession on how patients and the public view physical therapists, and how that relates to the desired increased credibility of the profession.
PT and PTA attire sometimes even hits home for us at ADVANCE. To cover stories, we go into many settings across the country to interview therapists on their areas of care, and develop photos and stories for the magazine, sometimes for our cover stories. Often, the appearance of a therapist on our cover comes to the attention of readers, who complain the therapist is not dressed professionally, or even that the attire could interfere with proper patient care. Features such as flopping ties (they pick up tons of germs and can be in the way), long hair not pulled back, too-loose or too-tight shirts or inappropriate footwear (flip-flops, anyone?) come under scrutiny-and we are often the targets for even allowing a therapist to represent him or herself on our cover in unacceptable dress.
As in all professions, appearance matters. But when a profession takes a step up in prestige level and educational requirements, it becomes even more of a mirror into how respected that profession is.
How do you prefer to dress for work? Does your workplace mandate a dress code? Do you feel now that the PT profession is a doctoring field, therapists should aim to dress more professionally, or do you feel comfort and ease-of-movement of clothing is still more important when caring for patients?