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Surgeons’ Dress Sense Affects Communication

14 September 2005

Study Shows Surgeons’ Dress Sense Affects Communication

When it comes to surgeons, it seems that looks do count.

Does a snappy suit make patients feel better about the person due to operate on them or are they happy with a scalpel wielder wearing shorts so long as they know what they’re doing?

The answers to these questions will be discussed at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons’ Scientific Meeting in Hamilton when Auckland Surgical Registrar Dr Magdalena Lipska presents the paper entitled “Patient Preferences Regarding Surgeons Attire” on behalf of the Auckland Colorectal Surgery Unit.

Over a three-month period they asked 200 patients of different ages, culture and gender how they preferred to see their surgeons dressed, working in a variety of hospital surgical settings.

Previous studies have asked patients about how they’d prefer doctors in medical and paediatric settings to dress but this is the first time anyone has asked what New Zealanders think of their surgeons dress sense.

“Unlike, say psychiatrists or GP’s, surgeons often have little time with patients before surgery.” Dr Lipska said. “It’s important that patients have confidence in surgeons and find them approachable. Clothes can play a part in forming their view.”

It turns out that New Zealanders are pretty relaxed about the subject. Most (54%) said that clothing didn’t matter but 64% felt it did influence their confidence in surgeons to some degree.

While smart attire, though not necessarily suit and tie, was expected during the week, casual dress on the weekend was considered acceptable. Ethnicity affected results to some degree; New Zealand Europeans thought attire influenced confidence while Maori and Pacific island patients did not hold this view to the same degree and Asian patients were more likely to prefer their surgeon to wear a white coat.

So it seems that while smart attire is the order of the day, the time may have come for the tie to be cast.

The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons is an internationally recognized organization representing more than 6,300 members, including 1,700 trainees in nine different specialties in New Zealand and Australia – 90 per cent of surgeons in both countries have been trained and examined by the College. Seven hundred New Zealand surgeons are members of RACS.

The key roles of the college are in advocacy, education, professional development and membership support. The nine specialist areas represented by RACS are: general surgery, neurology, urology, otolaryngology, paediatrics, plastic and reconstructive surgery, vascular surgery and, cardio-thoracic surgery.

The conference – to be held at the Novatel Tainui in Hamilton will run from Tuesday September 13 to Friday September 16. Media are welcome to attend.


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