Keeping Up Appearances

Lady physicians in the night.

When you are a patient in the ER, you may believe that the last thing you are thinking about is the appearance of the doctor who is going to be writing your admission orders or using a needle to take the fluid off your lung or wheel you off to surgery.

Subconsciously you are, though.

When I was in residency we were shown a graph from a study that showed showed that patients judge their physician more on how they look than what they know. This is particularly problematic for female physicians. Men can just roll out of bed and boom! they are ready to go. Not so for lady-docs. Oh, no. Patients do not have confidence inspired when faced with disheveled hair and smeared make up even if it is in the middle of the night. So I thought I would compile a quick list of helpful hints and tips for the ladies.

Make up regimen: One of those amazing lipstick paint-ons that lasts for 48 hrs, a bit of blush and face powder, and a water-proof mascara in case of the unlikely event that you get enough sleep to warrant a puddle of drool on the call room plastic covered pillow. I liked to avoid foundation because it always seemed to feel goopy after hour number 18. No need to worry about SPF. Your skin is not seeing the light of day for a looooong time…

Clothes: Scrubs. They are legal pajamas. Cover it with the white coat and you don’t have to pay attention to the unflattering bulges around the draw string.

Footwear: Sneakers or clogs.

Hair: Ponytail if you can. At the very least, something that can be fluffed up and smoothed out with a head shake and a few fingers through the hair. No sense losing precious sleep from preening.

Accessories: Large cup of coffee in the left hand and your lucky socks. I guess you could count the stethoscope around your neck here. You can get the Littmann Cardiology III in several festive colors nowadays to mirror your moods (or body fluids)… black (for melena or to match your black cloud), maroon (for blood), green (for bile, diarrhea, vomit)… do they make a blue (for the tears that you will cry from exhaustion at about 3AM)? Drape it like a scarf or something.

Deodorant/antiperspirant: Don’t forget to reapply after midnight. No one wants to experience your B.O.

Now go knock ’em dead! Ok. Maybe not that. Break a leg? Nah. Alright. How about this slogan? Do a good job and look good doing it!


86 thoughts on “Keeping Up Appearances

  1. There are some of us who are make up challenged without the 18 hour ER rotation. For some reason, sitting in front of a computer screen for 3 hours (if I’m lucky) will have me looking rather Jackson Pollock-ish if I’ve stupidly applied less than permanent marker makeup. It’s a gift.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. And, after all of that, try not to say anything. Read an article in the NY Times yesterday about how in meetings men who speak are heard and women are interrupted. That apparently applies even to CEOs. I once worked at a largish company with a female CEO who had a grandmotherly appearance. Underneath, she was pretty tough (necessary if you want to be CEO of a large company, no matter what your gender). Unfortunately, if you are a tough man you garner all sorts of admiring descriptions, even if you are, at bottom, a jerk. If you are a tough woman, you get pretty much nothing but pejorative descriptions no matter what you are really like. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You mean you don’t look like the cast from Grey’s Anatomy in between on-call room escapades? Shocking! All joking aside however, I’m in a male dominated profession and it drives me crazy when clients (male OR female) comment on my appearance. And don’t get me started about the perceived ‘authority’ men enjoy simply because of that appendage between their legs. πŸ˜‰

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  4. Ha ha ha! I don’t actually care what my doctor looks like, as long as he/she looks like a doctor. A stethoscope around the neck helps, but since nurses and many therapists also carry those, it’s not a sure sign. Reasonable grooming and able to remember to say “hello, I’m Dr. [Wossname]” the first time we meet is often enough.

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  7. The times I’ve been in the ER I didn’t care what the doctor looked like. I don’t think I noticed.

    What I HAVE noticed, however, is that they put the most uncomfortable chairs in there — ones that Lilliputians could not lie down in, or even put your feet up. It is a place for sick people, not students you are trying to keep awake during trigonometry.

    If you’re not sick enough to not care what the doc looks like, what the hell are you doing in the ER?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good point! I personally think the tiny chairs are preparation for the rest of the torture to come. An appetizer, if you will. You would be surpised how many deathy ill people have told me I was too young or asked for my credentials before letting me help them. But admittedly, most of the ER is populated with people who have no business there.

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  8. Oh this reminded me of my first British hospital job. All those horrible exhausting weekends on call, starting on Friday morning, finishing at Monday evening, almost no sleep. Sometimes I spoke to patients in Czech without noticing till they gave me funny looks. I wonder if my brain worked on more that 30 %.
    Then, after the junior doctors’ strikes, the rules have changed so our young colleagues do not have to do that anymore. They work hard, but do shift work. Safer for everybody around.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Actually, I almost prefer that the ER doctor look a little frazzled. I know he/she is working hard and probably will work just as hard for me. I don’t care for the young [female] doctors who seem to be more aware of their appearance than they are of the patients – fortunately, there aren’t a lot of those, but I have had experience with them.

    I especially hated the young nurse who was so bedazzled by my cute surgeon that she seemed to forget I was there at all.


    • Part of the issue is that physicians by nature are competitive. And smart. Lady docs know cleavage gets them attention. I cannot tell you how many classmates slept with attendings and dressed like hookers. It worked, too, which is the sad part.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I taught high school for six years, in a college for seven, and in a community college for almost 30. I always prided myself on my collection of ties–and wearing them to class. Except for a very short time in 1968 (bad year for ties), and when I had knee replacement surgery, I dressed so that I could have them out there know that I was not one of them. While in college, I worked in a hospital ER. My wife tells me it was the back of my neck in that white orderly costume that turned her on. Hooray for the suits and the ties I have worn–and that wonderful white uniform I wore!

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  11. I’m glad I’m a man when a read this. I can be ugly and disheveled and not care. And if I have a female doctor with mussed hair and smeared makeup, I don’t give a dang. Actually it could make her a little more attractive, in a tawdry way. ;D

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Three cheers for ponytails. I trust no one, and I mean no one with perfectly coifed hair down to the shoulders with soft bangs off their forehead, not a strand out of place. Get it out of your face and get on with your day! Or in your case, your 24 hour call shift : )

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  13. They do in fact make the Littmann III in navy, it’s my most common accessory and is just charming with the circles halfway down my cheekbones. Jokes aside, I actually just got a wet dry hair straightener and am hoping for great things. I am definitely the ponytail clerk and I not so subtly detest the other female clerk who literally always dresses like it’s a pageant. She also missed the cleavage rule but I’m not taking that one on!

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  14. I won’t really care if a doctor prepares to look good just as long as he or she looks clean and decent and is, most especially, knowledgeable in what s/he’s doing. If I’m on the brink of dying, I’d like to know if a doctor can save me, not gawk at his/her beauty. Oh, and attitude and manners count, too. There are doctors and nurses who can be kind of rude to patients. Don’t matter if you look like the most beautiful thing in the world if you have awful bedside manners.

    Liked by 1 person

    • But studies show that you base a doctor’s competence level largely on their appearance. First impressions and all that. You may not be aware of doing this but you are, and that’s OK. There is a cool Freakanomics post about game theory. There is a band they refer (I blank on the name) to that was known for their aerial performances AND for their diva-like demands. What of only this certain type at a certain exact temp. M&Ms of only a certain color. The list was long amd detailed. If the demands were not met exactly, they walked away and did not perform. Great fodder for gossip, BUT they knew that these people, who were also going to be setting up the rigging for the show, did pay attention to every minute detail on their list of damands, chances are they paid enough attention to the detail of the rigging that there would not be any deaths or injuries. So when you are judging a doctor based on appearance, it is reasonable. It just takes more effort for women to meet that level of presentability! πŸ™‚


      • That makes sense, of course. I’m really just basing on my own impressions. Sometimes, a doctor who is too groomed come off as rigid and intimidating. So I put much value on how a doctor interacts with his/her patient. Nice if s/he is looks good, neat, and decent as well as knowledgeable and with good, sincere manners.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. it’s all good. i’ve worn the same color scrubs daily for the last 5 years. it used to be my required uniform color so I have 6 pairs in the same color. even after i switched hospitals, i keep wearing the same color. never really cared what anyone thought…

    until my friend’s 4yr old asked me if i do laundry. HA. =P

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Van Halen. The brown m+m’s concert contract clause was Van Halen. (Children of the 80’s, check out the link to the NPR video interview with a member of the band as he explains this. When it dawns on you who is speaking, it becomes absolutely jaw-dropping, totally engrossing: ) Let me also say, as a (kind of frumpy) female physician-and-mom who has recently become concerned about appearances, I found this post quite relevant! And correct. Though it can swing in the other direction as well: If the lady doc is TOO coiffed, and appears as if she may spend excess time and attention on her appearance, patients also lose confidence. See Anna Reisman’s clever Atlantic essay on this:
    Basically, ladies, there is a small window between sloppy and vain, and we’re basically screwed.

    Liked by 1 person

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