Monday, July 6, 2009

When is casual too casual?

Here it is, 3:00 AM and I'm on call at the hospital. I can never sleep here, even on a light night like now. Something about sleeping on a sofa that is not very comfortable. So I guess I'll write a little blog instead.

Earlier this evening, the surgeon booked a case for an I+D of an abscess to start at 8:00 PM. This was not because we were so busy we couldn't get him in earlier. In fact the OR was dead and we were all sitting around waiting for him to show up. When he did, it was immediately clear why he wanted to do this case at this hour, right after sunset. He showed up in a hawaiian shirt and beach shorts under his white lab coat. His messy hair looked like it had just been blown by the ocean breezes. I was quite astonished by his lack of decorum coming into the hospital. True I was a bit jealous that he could be out at the beach all day while I had to stay inside the hospital. But really. Such a lack of professional attire, even if it is on a holiday weekend. It doesn't matter that the surgeon is very pleasant to work with. I wouldn't allow myself to present in that way in front of a patient. But I guess I've always been a bit uptight about my manner of dress, aside from the fact that I wear scrubs nearly every single day.

I once read in a journal that anesthesiologists would get more respect from their patients if they showed up in better attire, instead of schlepping in and out of the hospital every day in scrubs. After all, the internists and (most) surgeons see their patients on the floor in a shirt and tie under their white lab coats while only techs and nurses and residents wore scrubs. It made sense to me so I tried wearing a shirt and tie to work every day for a few months. It certainly got everybody's attention. I was the best dressed anesthesiologist in the department. But it quickly became impractical. First of all, only the first patient of the day saw me in my nice outfit. After that I was not going to put my tie back on just to interview the next patient on the OR schedule. Then all these studies came out saying how dirty and disgusting ties were in hospitals. In fact they're banned in England because of the risk of spreading bacterial infection from one patient to the next. They also don't allow long sleeves; nothing below the elbow. So after awhile I stopped wearing nice clothes to work. Sure lowered my clothing and cleaning bills.

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