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How to express your style when wearing a medical coat

Have you ever thought about your 1 st impression impact on your patients?

The way you dress is telling a lot about yourself. This is even truer in the medical field. How you present yourself and communicate directly affects on how successfully your message is conveyed, how actively patients are listening to you and it definitely defines your relationships with patients. How to inspire confidence to your patients then?

Every morning you have the choice between black or blue trousers, a grey shirt or a polo shirt and many other variations. As you might know, more than 55% of our communication is non-verbal. So, when you are meeting a patient for the first time, the way you present yourself needs to give a respectable and professional image.

Image consultants and stylists decode this image and turn it into a positive image, in keeping with your personality.

A big advantage of this work is to improve the staff appearance without sacrificing their own personality within their look.

Some practitioners will prefer to lead a traditional practice when some others will implement modernity with initiatives like assistants coaching, soft skills workshops for the team. In modern practices even the decoration and colour choices is important and carefully chosen. If you decide to buy uniforms for your team, you will deliver a chosen message that conveys seriousness, modernity and gentleness. It will also deliver a message of unity and team spirit, creating a sense of cohesion around the patient.

What our clothes tell about us?

In extreme cases, a flower shirt or a hoodie, for example, can bring interrogations about the practitioner’s seriousness, effecting on how patients respond to medical advice. For most practitioners, who dress without thinking, it’s important to know that your appearance reveals a lot about you; from your quality of life, your personality, your sense of responsibility and even your seriousness. Your appearance unconsciously influences the patient thinking and so, your relationship. Your state of mind and your way of life are also revealed through clothing. Beyond the image that you send out, feeling at ease in one's clothes adds a dose of self-confidence and conviction in your relationships with others.

Which colours should you prefer?

Finding clothes and colours to wear for you and your team in order to reinforce the notion of professionalism can be a little bit abstract. Choosing the colour for the walls and decorative objects can be tricky as well when you want to send the right message. You will have to ask yourself ‘What do I want to express? Plan an hour with your team, take some distance and think of your professional values. Once these values are highlighted, a colour that corresponds to them will emerge. Patients are able to translate it instinctively, giving meaning to the final result.

Through the use of colours, patients are reassured by “usual” codes, meanings that are imbedded within our society. “Conviviality is expressed by orange, green and blue colours, modernity is expressed by black, white and red, confidence is expressed by serious colours like navy blue, brown, white, black and green, etc.

Do you know how to play with gradations and complementary colours?

In general, too lively colours need to be avoided for their excess of power and too pale colours for their lack of impact.

One method is for assistants in the office to choose a gradation of the chosen colour and for the practitioner to pick another gradation. For example, Kate the dentist will wear dark green clothes and Helen the assistant will wear light green.

Another approach is to try to create a harmony between the outfits and the practice’s colours. The goal here is to create unity. To avoid excess and saturation of the chosen colours, the use of complementary colours in small touches is a fantastic alternative. Finally, the outfits or uniforms can be identical but employees can personalise it thanks to make-up, hairstyle and accessories adding personal touches.

Complementary colours

Should you wear a white coat?

Can we imagine a practitioner in Australia wearing a suit and tie or ripped jeans?

In other places like England, wearing a suit and tie under a doctor’s coat is essential.

Wearing a medical coat helps patients to differentiate the doctor from other professionals. In our modern society meanings are attached to certain images, providing different contexts and interpretations. Patients associate a medical coat with a doctor; it sounds important to wear a medical coat then but not necessarily a standard white one. White is not a colour that suits everyone, it is not a reassuring or friendly colour neither. Moreover, if it is not immaculate, it can have a bad impact. You can find many medical coats in different tones of pastels that will send a better message than white coats.

An image consultant can assist you and your team through the process. Thanks to a professional expertise, you will know exactly how to choose the right colours, outfits, decoration… to develop your practice’s impact and success. More alternatives for women Assistants and women dentists have the choice of their make-up and hairstyle.

“Pick soft mates colours and pair them with a complementary colour. For example, a blue coat will be in harmony with a brownish-orange make-up” says Maud Vanhoutte, Image Consultant at New Reflections. “Hairstyle will look softer as well with a loose bun or curved curl. Avoid the strict haircut, as a bob cut, if you don’t want to look too strict and severe”.

How to pick the right medical coat fabric?

Don’t forget that the practical aspect of your outfits is essential. Prefer soft fabrics as they are pleasant to carry and iron easily. To feel and look confident, be aware of your body shapes. The way clothes fit your body shapes, which differs among people, impacts on your first impression! Choose clothing style depending on the person who is going to wear it as well as your practice’s values. The clothes can’t restrict and should give the professional freedom with their movements. Don’t choose outfits that are too big or too small; they have to be adjusted. Select a quality of clothes and fabric that is going to last in time, as it’s a financial investment. To be certain that your team will wear the uniform, you can offer the clothes in a welcome pack for new recruits. This provides a strong sign that your team member is integrated within the company and helps to build the team spirit.


Emy, Dr Bilhere’s assistant (France)

Anna and myself, both assistants, decided to try Maud Vanhoutte public workshop: “Dress for success; workshop for dental practices”. We looked forward to attend to the image consultancy workshop for months. As soon as the class started, we were all engaged and involved. We did find this training relevant because we know that our first impression has a strong impact on the image we convey at work. Since the training, I am choosing carefully my outfits, colours and accessories every morning. Personally, I prefer brown as it gives me more confidence. I match it with blue, (a blue hairgrip for example), to help my communication. Find harmony Coat is not mandatory for us as administrative assistant because we are not involved in the medical process. As we can wear ‘regular’ outfits, it is sometimes challenging to find the appropriate ones that give us credibility and exhibit professionalism.

Before the workshop, I used to only wear jeans and a medical coat (that doesn’t

even suits me well). I was not feeling “myself”; it was just the easy choice every morning. Now, my favourite outfits is brown trousers, a beige blouse and a beige and brown jacket. My outfit is highlighted with an orange jewel accessory.

The result achieved is very satisfying. It puts forward my personality. I’m more

at ease with patients and I feel that my communication skills are already better.

In conclusion, I feel at ease in my clothes and I take care of the image I convey.

Anna and myself are looking forward to the next training: Communication skills

and body language for dentists and assistants.

Expert’s words

Maud Vanhoutte, Stylist at New Reflections & Image Consultant

Match your appearance with your personality.

Do you want to improve your practice’s first impression?

If you are willing to develop a strong, winnable identity, I would be thrilled to assist you.

You can be the best dentist in Australia, if your team’s communication skills and practice’s first impression are inefficient, you will not retain or win patients. Too often, dentists don’t pay attention to ‘details’ as decoration, furniture, colours, objects, medical coat choices… Team members sometimes don’t get any guidance or direction on how to dress or communicate with patients.

All of that leads to a lack of unicity and uniformity that confuses the visitors and doesn’t help building trust or exhibiting seriousness and professionalism. Bringing a professional image consultant on board with an external fresh eye will help your practice succeed.

It is not a magical, ephemeral and arbitrary makeover; it is a proper Image/Brand Consultancy for your practice. I do consult on all aspects of your practice’s image and communication with a human-centred approach. Starting with an audit to get to know your practice’s mission, values and history better, I then provide you with an action plan.

From styling advice, decoration feedback and communication & sales strategy plans, I will develop a full package to boost your practice.

Maud Vanhoutte

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