A combined concern based on professional image and safety drives the American College of
Surgeons new communique on clothing. No dangling surgical masks, loose jewelry, grungy scrubs or uncovered ponytails or mutton-chop sideburns allowed. And, much like pro athletes, ditch the uniform (scrubs) for a jacket and tie for “encounters outside the OR.”

“The whole idea is to support professionalism on behalf of patients,” ACS Executive Director David Hoyt, MD, said in a news story.

The guidelines, which the ACS says were developed based on “based on professionalism, common sense, decorum, and the available evidence,” were designed standardize dress codes, which vary in different organizations.

“There’s a lot of confusion as to what is out there and what is being assessed. We felt it was very important to create a document that tries to evaluate everything and put it into perspective,” Hoyt said in the story. “This is what the surgical community feels is appropriate and best practice.”

Such dress codes aim to ensure that physicians look professional, which research shows is important to patients: Data aggregated from 30 studies found that most patients prefer physicians in professional attire.

As defined within the study, professional attire is “a collared shirt, tie and slacks for male physicians and blouse (with or without a blazer), skirt, or suit pants for female physicians.”

Professional attire is linked with perceptions of trustworthiness and respect, as well as improved patient satisfaction.

In addition, the statement provides details on wearing the skullcap in a way that ensures patient safety, and puts forth respective cleaning or disposal recommendations for cloth and paper caps. To facilitate enforcement of the guideline on wearing scrubs only within the perimeter of the hospital, the ACS also suggests the adoption of distinctive, colored scrub suits for OR personnel.

“This statement reflects our strong commitment to surgical patient safety. It’s important to provide an optimal surgical care environment for our patients. These recommendations for a comprehensive dress policy for surgeons will help us to achieve that goal,” said Hoyt.

The College is collaborating with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Joint Commission to ensure that their policies and regulatory oversight activities are aligned with these ACS recommendations.