Why should doctors dress professionally?

The Cowboy Chiropractor

Am I a real true-blood cowboy? No, not at all, but I did grow up in western culture. Boise is a big city and that’s where I spent most of my childhood, but you can never escape the roots of a western state which constantly left me wondering why should doctors dress professionally!

Professional dress is the eye of the beholder. Doctors should dress according to their patient demographic and how they feel they represent themselves best amongst their patient populations.

As healthcare providers, we are often expected to look, act, and talk a certain way. Society has come to expect professionalism from the healthcare profession. But just like every other profession we are evolving and becoming more casual with respect to our bedside manner and mannerisms. Chiropractors are never been taken too seriously and are usually a more personable doctors when it comes to our patients. Many times we are not facing life-threatening diseases but typically just aches and pains both acute and chronic.

As I continue to mature both personally and professionally, I am coming to realize that staying true to myself instead of fulfilling an ideal is far more important and makes me happier.
Recently, I decided to change my dress attire at the office. Only a few patients were caught off guard not realizing that I spend most of my time in jeans and cowboy boots outside of the office. I was a little bit nervous initially wondering if I would scare them off or if they would think of me less professionally. It turns out that when you’re a chiropractor in Idaho people love you for who you are and your service does not reflect the way you look. Furthermore, a lot more of my patients supported the new feeling in the office of a laid-back, down to earth country boy. I still talk to my patients the way I always have, but now I feel my mannerisms fit my visual appearance. Some of the older ladies have even made sweet comments about nice it is to have somebody that acts and appears down to earth. They let their guard down and are not so nervous during our conversation.

A professor once told me if you out-dress your audience they may be so intimidated by you they will close off. I’ve never been a suit and tie kind of guy. Black slacks and dress shoes were just never who I was.

Some of my inspiration came from an old neurosurgeon in the valley, I divulge names. He wore a ponytail and always wore cowboy boots and jeans. I referred a lot of patients to him and some of my favorite stories were with patients that came back and felt like they had just committed to surgery with the neighbor next door. Their trust levels were much higher and their confidence in his skills greatly increased simply because he looked like them dressed like them and talked to them like people. I had a patient tell me one time that he walked in and was talking to them and halfway through the consultation he stood up and walked over to his door and put his white jacket on he said “I guess I am a doctor I should throw this thing on every once in a while”. The second he put the white jacket on they felt slightly intimidated. He picked up on their body language and said, “Hey I don’t know why I did that this isn’t me, and hung it back up on the door”. This is one of the most highly respected neurosurgeons in the Treasure Valley and he recognized long ago that being a relatable provider was much more valuable than matching the persona of what a healthcare provider should be.

One of my very good buddies is a very successful attorney in California who recently opened a practice in the Boise as well. I’ve always admired him because he has kept his office very casual and sits Knee-to-knee with his clients and reassures them that they are going to be OK. He very rarely wears a suit and tie and has created one of the most successful law practices in California just by being personable.

Google asks “Why does a doctor need to dress professionally?” My response is they need to look professional not wear a white jacket or fancy suit.  The need to look like a person with an enhanced knowledge of their field. In this day and age, people are smart enough to do their research and know which ones are good and bad and you don’t have to look the part as long as you are professional and respectful. Have a clean look and show people that you truly care about their problems and business will flood through the door. I will be forever grateful to my patients who have been with me for the last 10 years and referred to me hundreds if not thousands of other patients. I just recently realized it was never because I looked like a doctor, but that I acted like one.

One thought on “Why should doctors dress professionally?”

  1. 100% agree, always stay true to yourself. I feel it is easy to feel intimidated by doctors that overdue the part! 🙂


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