OK, I admit it, I am a card-carrying member of the casual footwear society (CFS). Not that I don't like wearing shoes, but I just like the feel of sandals. When I started doing this in the office, I got mixed reviews. Some seemed to like the fact that I was somewhat laid-back in my attire, while others are offended. Once a lady left my nurse with a newspaper article that referenced the following article:
BACKGROUND: This study examined patient perceptions and attitudes toward various aspects of the male and female physician's professional appearance in the family practice setting. METHODS: Four hundred ninety-six patients from two family practice clinics in Knoxville, Tennessee, completed a valid and reliable questionnaire. Questionnaires were offered to all patients on registering at their respective clinic during a 2-week period. RESULTS: Most patients had no preference regarding the age or sex of their medical care provider. A nametag, white coat, and visible stethoscope were the most desirable characteristics, whereas sandals, clogs, and tennis shoes were the least desirable items. Younger patients were generally more accepting of casual attire than were older patients. Office clinic location was the most important predictor of preferences in six of the significant characteristics. CONCLUSION: Our findings support the results of both studies published two decades earlier and more recently. Patients prefer a traditionally dressed physician as opposed to one who is dressed more casually
My nurse was furious and told me: "Dr. Lamberts, never change!" I thought it was humorous.
The fact is, I am not an overall casual dresser. I wear a button-up shirt and kahkis usually, never wearing jeans or a non-dress shirt. But my sandals are one of the trademarks. On the days that I either can't find my sandals or just have the desire (or, "hankerin" here in God's country) to wear regular shoes, I will invariably get a comment from a patient asking me why I am not wearing my sandals.
My theory on all of this is that patients may respond this way on a questionnaire, but if you ask them, "what is more important, whether you can have a good relationship with your physician and feel that he listens to you, or whether he dresses nicely?" Most people would choose the doctor who gets along well and listens. I don't put on airs like I am different from my patients. I don't want them to feel I am above them. I am the one who is lucky to be there and want them to know that.
And if they still don't like my sandals, they can go see "Dr. Kildare" down the hall.