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ORIGINAL ARTICLE  
Year : 2011  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 68-72
Dental students' perception towards dress code in a private dental institution in Andhra Pradesh: A cross-sectional study


1 Department of Preventive and Community Dentistry, Narayana Dental College and Hospital, Nellore, Andhra Pradesh, India
2 Department of Community Dentistry, Narayana Dental College and Hospital, Nellore, Andhra Pradesh, India

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Date of Web Publication22-Nov-2012
 

   Abstract 

Background: "Fashion is one of the world's oldest fountains of youth," as "with every new garment, one discovers a new self". Human behavior is changing due to changing trends and generation needs, new movements collide with older thoughts and influences from different streams of thought are always brought into contact with established belief changing the balance and centre of gravity of opinion. However, clothing affects several kinds of judgments people make.
Aim: To know the attitude of dental students towards the current professional dental dress code and identify perceived appropriate dress code for dental students.
Materials and Methods: A cross-sectional descriptive study was conducted among the dental students of a private dental institution in Andhra Pradesh. Dental students from first year to Interns were included in the study. Prior to the start of the study the four most commonly seen dressing patterns among students of the same region were identified and selected. The data was collected using a self-administered questionnaire containing four pairs of photographs with a uniform background portraying models of male and female students in different attires to elicit the subject's response on dress code. Specifically, male and female students were surveyed separately using male model photographs for male respondents and female model photographs for female respondents.
Results: Three hundred and twenty-nine subjects, with mean age 21±4, participated and completed the questionnaires; 75.7% of the respondents felt that dental dress code is important. Professional informal dress code was preferred by 38.7% male and 42.6% female respondent as a dress code that portrayed the qualities of professionalism, 54.1% males and 34.9% females felt the need for change in professional dress code. Among the students favoring need for change in dental dress code from formals to others, 85% of the males preferred cool casuals and 79% females preferred causal.
Conclusion: The study revealed variation in preference of students and their negative attitude towards professional dress code.

Keywords: Dental students, dress code, student′s attitude

How to cite this article:
Sudhir K M, Mohan G C, Fareed N, Shanthi M. Dental students' perception towards dress code in a private dental institution in Andhra Pradesh: A cross-sectional study. J Educ Ethics Dent 2011;1:68-72

How to cite this URL:
Sudhir K M, Mohan G C, Fareed N, Shanthi M. Dental students' perception towards dress code in a private dental institution in Andhra Pradesh: A cross-sectional study. J Educ Ethics Dent [serial online] 2011 [cited 2019 Sep 15];1:68-72. Available from: http://www.jeed.in/text.asp?2011/1/2/68/103679



   Introduction Top


The reason that people choose to wear clothes range from it being a life necessity to an escape for personal individuality. "Fashion is one of the world's oldest fountains of youth" as "with every new garment, one discovers a new self". [1] Human behavior is changing due to changing trends and generation needs, new movements collide with older thoughts and influences from different streams of thought are always brought into contact with established belief changing the balance and centre of gravity of opinion. [2]

Clothing affects several kinds of judgments people make. [1] A positive self-image defines character, boosts self-confidence, expresses individuality, portrays social status, and supplies the satisfaction of dressing according to one's beliefs and culture. [1],[3]

In order to be taken seriously, professional dress is required. [1] Professional dress promotes respect, impresses, enhances authority and assists in gaining advancement opportunities. The way one dresses plays an important role in how one is perceived and can impact negatively or positively. [1],[4]

General appearance and standards of dress are important issues in our profession. Society has accorded physicians special privileges and status and expects us, as part of a larger "social contract", to conduct ourselves in accordance with standards that we ourselves regulate but that are driven by the interests of those we serve. For instance, patients prefer and have come to expect physicians to wear a white coat with a name tag and to dress conservatively; [5],[6],[7] this mode of dress conveys respect and gives formality to patient-physician interactions. The medical profession has a vested interest in maintaining this dress code, which, like the uniforms of military personnel and clergy, affords professional identity and the privilege and status that come with it. [8]

This topic may be considered a subset of the general concept of professionalism, which spans ethics, values, humanism, and related topics. Formal attire is generally regarded as important to patient care, and one can imagine multiple possible reasons, but within this simple question lie profound tensions, between physicians' individual rights to self-expression and their duty to act in the interest of patients, between cultural or even religious affiliation and membership within the medical profession. Answering this question is not as straightforward as it may seem. [8],[9]

The purpose of this research was to know the attitude of dental students towards the current professional dental dress code and identify perceived appropriate dress code for dental students. This study surveyed dental students at a private dental institution to identify what they deemed to be the appropriate dress code.


   Materials and Methods Top


A cross-sectional descriptive study was conducted among dental students of Narayana Dental College and Hospital. The study was conducted over a period of one month (1 to 30 December 2010). Dental students from first year to Interns who were willing to participate and who gave informed consent and were present on the particular day of investigation were included in the study. Before the commencement of the study ethical clearance was obtained from the Ethical Committee Narayana Dental College and Hospital.

Data was collected using self-administered questionnaire. Prior to the start of the study we assembled a convenience sample of 30 dental students (15 males and 15 females) belonging to the same region and they were given photographs of 10 commonly used dressing patterns in the region. Individuals in the group were then asked to identify from those photographs the most commonly seen dressing patterns in their region. Finally, four photographs of male and female dress codes were selected for this study.

Four pairs of photographs [Figure 1] and [Figure 2] with a uniform background portraying models of male and female students in different attires were included as a part of questionnaire to elicit subject's response on dress code. Specifically, male and female students were surveyed separately using male model photographs for male respondents and female model photographs for female respondents on a particular day in their classrooms and they were asked to fill the questionnaire and the filled forms were collected back immediately.
Figure 1: Male dress codes

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Figure 2: Female dress codes

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The attires included in the study were:

Cool casual dress: Jeans and T-shirt with White coat

Casual dress: Shirt-pant, out shirt and slippers with white coat

Professional informal dress: Shirt-pant tucked in and shoes with white coat

Professional formal dress: Shirt-pant, Tie and shoe with white coat

Cool casual dress: Jeans and T-shirt with White coat

Casual dress: Salwar and jeans with White coat

Professional informal dress: Salwar kameez with white coat

Professional formal dress: Sari with white coat

The responses received were entered in a Microsoft Excel sheet. For analysis, the simple counts of responses were made and percentages were calculated for every question. SPSS Version 14 was used for analysis.


   Results Top


A total of 329 subjects participated and completed the questionnaires at the end of the study period with mean age 21±4.

[Table 1] shows the gender and year-wise distribution of the study participants, majority of them (66.3%) were females; 28.3% of the participants were Interns and least were from third years 17.1%. A total of 75.7% [Table 2] of the respondents felt that dental dress code is important. A detailed analysis showed that 83.5% of females in contrast to 60.4% of the males felt that dress code is important.
Table 1: Gender, Batch-wise distribution of study subjects

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Table 2: Importance of dress code for dental students

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Analysis of opinions regarding the dress code that portrayed the qualities of cleanliness [Table 3], showed that 39.9% of the male respondents preferred Professional informal as their first choice followed by cool casual (34.1%); 65.1% of the female respondents preferred Professional informal as their first choice followed by casual dress (27.1%).
Table 3: Students' preference of dress code that portrays cleanliness, professionalism and dress code that they feel comfortable with

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Analysis of opinions regarding the dress code that portrayed the qualities of professionalism [Table 3] showed that 38.7% of the male respondents preferred Professional informal followed by Professional formal (36.1%) and cool casual (21.6%); 42.6% of the female respondents preferred Professional informal followed by Professional formal (28.4%) and casual dress (25.7%) respectively.

Analysis of opinions regarding the dress code that they feel comfortable with [Table 3], interestingly showed that 52.2% of the male respondents preferred cool casual followed by professional informal (33.4%). In contrast 65.1% of females preferred professional informal dress code followed by casual (28.9%) and the least preferred was the professional formal.

[Table 4] shows the ranking of the male and female dress code according to the order of preference by male and female respondents. Most preferred male dress code (41.4%) was professional informal, interestingly followed by cool casual (37.8%) and the least preferred was professional formal dress code (8.2%). Most preferred female dress code (63.3%) was professional informal followed by casual (29.3%) and the least preferred was professional formal (3.7%).
Table 4: Ranking of dress code according to the order of preference

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Analysis of the data in [Table 5] on the perceived need for change in the professional dental dress code from formals to other revealed that 54.1% of the male respondents felt a need for change in contrast to 34.9% of females. [Table 6] shows the preference of dress code by students favoring need for change in dental dress code from formals to others. Eighty-five percent of the males preferred cool casuals and 79% females preferred causal.
Table 5: Need for change in professional dental dress code from formals to others

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Table 6: Preference of dress code by students favoring need for change in dental dress code from formals to others

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   Discussion Top


Clothing affects the way in which one is perceived and can impact either negatively or positively. [4] This study specifically has evaluated dental students' attitude towards the current professional dental dress code and identified the perceived appropriate dress code for dental students.

Importance of dental dress code

Majority of subjects, about 75.7% in the present study felt that dental dress code is important; in today's digital world, the visual aspect has never been more critical. Harry Beckwith, the author of the Selling the Invisible, claims that people do not simply form impressions of others, they become anchored to them. Almost all people today are apt to make snap judgments of others, and then base all their later decisions on them. [4] So the way one dresses becomes important.

Preference regarding dress code that portrayed cleanliness

Interestingly 35.1% of the male respondents preferred cool casual and 27.1% of the female respondents preferred casual dress code. In contrast, studies conducted on patients' preference of dress code that portrayed cleanliness, majority of the patients have ranked professional dress as the most appropriate and negligible preference was given to casual dress. [8],[10] So the study showed variation in the preference of students and their negative attitude towards professional dress code.

Preference regarding dress code that portrayed professionalism

About 21.6% of the male respondents preferred cool casual and 25.7% female respondents preferred casual dress code. In contrast, studies conducted on patients' preference of dress code that portrayed professionalism has shown that patients prefer formal dress as their first choice. So patients place great importance on what dentists wear and they prefer that dentists should at least wear formal dress during consultations and can wear white coat while providing treatment. [11],[12],[13],[14],[15] But the present study revealed a negative attitude among the dental students for professional dress code. Patients are often in a position of vulnerability, as they may be quite ill and depend upon doctors for help and medical advice. Doctors have a responsibility to put their patients at ease, and professional appearance may be part of that responsibility. If patients are made uncomfortable by a doctor's appearance, then the doctors have a duty to consider changing his/her appearance essentially. [8]

Analysis of opinions regarding the dress code that they feel comfortable

Interestingly, 52.2% of the male respondents preferred cool casual and 65.1% of the females preferred professional informal dress code for comfort. Professional dress is essential for a take-me-seriously look, though casuals are comfortable they do not give the professional look. Naked feet or slippers do not command respect in a business environment. Save the look for your social time. Shoes tell your secrets; they are the strongest indicators of your socioeconomic status. Shoe style must be closed-toe and closed-heel and they must be in mint condition. Naked heels, scruffy toes or unpolished footwear scream failure. [4]

Analysis of the data on the perceived need for change in the professional dental dress code from formals to other

About 54.1% of the male respondents felt a need for change in contrast to 34.9% of females. The preferred dress code by students favoring need for change from formal to others reveals that 85% of the males preferred cool casuals. In contrast females preferred casual (79%). These results showed the effect of the current trend on the students; however professional dress code attracts greater success. Looking harried and unprofessional drains your personal power and positive impact. Regardless of how hard you work or how smart you are, it can place you at risk of damaging your professional reputation, of hitting a wall in your career, of impeding your success potential. [4]

To get ahead (and to stay ahead) in any career, pay attention to your workplace image as it is a powerful communicator. The nonverbal messages your image sends can work in your behalf, or they can work against you. Clothing is a primary component of your image and it's a potent communicator with its own coded language. Your apparel can signal that you are a leader with winning potential, or it can scream that you are a loser. If your clothing is waving the loser flag, you have to work extra hard to command respect and inspire trust. [4]

To stay ahead and to survive in professional environment one should adopt a professional look.


   Conclusion Top


The study revealed variation in the preference of students and their negative attitude towards a professional dress code.

Recommendation

Patients are often in a position of vulnerability, as they may be quite ill and depend upon doctors for help and medical advice. Doctors have a responsibility to put their patients at ease, and professional appearance may be part of that responsibility. If patients are made uncomfortable by a doctor's appearance, then the doctors have a duty to consider changing his/her appearance. Essentially, doctors have duties to act in patients' interests that, in some cases, may supersede their own rights as individuals.

Healthcare institutions are businesses whose primary responsibility is patient care, and to the extent that unprofessional attire negatively impacts that care, or even simply patients' perceptions of that care, restricting their wear may be reasonable.

The answer, then, to our original question may seem clear: We should avoid wearing non-traditional dresses at work.

 
   References Top

1.Ayisha T, Shirley H. College Student′s Perception of Clothing that Projects a Professional Image. Undergraduate Res J Human Sci 2008;7:35-41.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.Erik AA. A Pre-design study of patient and medical professional attitudes and reactions towards the colour of medical scrubs. DMFA Thesis. The Ohio State University; 2008.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.Davis LL. Clothing and Human Behavior: "A review". Home Eco Res J 1984;12:325-38. Available from: http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/search/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb = trueand_andERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0 = EJ294441andERICExtSearch_SearchType_0 = noandaccno = EJ294441 [Last cited on 2010 Dec 03].  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.How to dress to impress. In Fairfield County Business J 2005;44: S7. Available form: http://libproxy.fitsuny.edu:2055/ips/infomark.do?andcontentSet = IAC-Documentsandtype = retrieveandtab ID = T003 and prodId = IP SanddocId = A133978341 and source = gale and user Group Name = fit suny and versio n = 1.0 [Last cited on 2010 Dec 03].  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.Keenum AJ, Wallace LS, Stevens AR. Patients′ attitudes regarding physical characteristics of family practice physicians. South Med J 2003;96:1190-4.  Back to cited text no. 5
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6.Dunn JJ, Lee TH, Percelay JM, Fitz JG, Goldman L. Patient and house officer attitudes on physician attire and etiquette. JAMA 1987;257:65-8.  Back to cited text no. 6
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7.Menahem S, Shvartzman P. Is our appearance important to our patients? Fam Pract 1998;15:391-7.  Back to cited text no. 7
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8.Beach MC, Saha S. Free to be you and me? Balancing professionalism, culture, and self-expression. J Gen Intern Med 2005;20:312-3.  Back to cited text no. 8
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9.Bianchi MT. Desiderata or dogma: what the evidence reveals about physician attire. J Gen Intern Med 2008;23:641-3.  Back to cited text no. 9
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10.Rehman SU, Nietert PJ, Cope DW, Kilpatrick AO. What to wear today? Effect of doctor′s attire on the trust and confidence of patients. Am J Med 2005;118:1279-86.  Back to cited text no. 10
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11.Shulman ER, Brehm WT. Dental clinical attire and infection-control procedures: Patients′ attitudes. J Am Dent Assoc 2001;132;508-16.  Back to cited text no. 11
    
12.Gary LB, Richmond J. The White - coat effect: physician attire and perceived authority, friendliness and attractiveness. J Appl Soc Psychol 2004;34:2469-81.  Back to cited text no. 12
    
13.McKenna G, Lillywhite GR, Maini N. Patient preferences for dental clinical attire: a cross-sectional survey in a dental hospital. Br Dent J 2007;203:681-5.  Back to cited text no. 13
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14.Mistry D, Tahmassebi JF. Children′s and parents′ attitudes towards dentists′ attire. Eur Arch Paediatr Dent 2009;10:237-40.  Back to cited text no. 14
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15.Gherardi G, Cameron J, West A, Crossley M. Are we dressed to impress? A descriptive survey assessing patients′ preference of doctors′ attire in the hospital setting. Clin Med 2009;9:519-24.  Back to cited text no. 15
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Correspondence Address:
K M Sudhir
Department of Preventive and Community Dentistry,Narayana Dental College and Hospital, Nellore, Andhra Pradesh
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0974-7761.103679

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