The Effect of Attire and Appearance on Patient Confidence in Physical Therapists

Purpose/Hypothesis : It is important that patients have confidence in their healthcare providersÕ professional skills. Different aspects of attire and physical attributes affect patient confidence in physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers. Attire affects patient confidence in physical therapists but results were combined for multiple settings, even though it is likely that patient preference for attire differs by setting. It is not known whether physical attributes affect patient confidence in physical therapists. This study on patient confidence is limited to the outpatient physical therapy setting and it is hypothesized that both attire and physical attributes affect patient confidence.Number of Subjects : 56 adult patients participated immediately before or after outpatient physical therapy re-visits in five outpatient clinics.Materials/Methods : Data was collected using a two-stage semi-structured interview. First, each participant was shown three silhouettes of physical therapists wearing three different forms of attire: professional dress (dress shirt and tie or dress blouse), business casual (polo shirt and khaki pants), and athletic wear (T-shirt and athletic pants). Each then selected the image in which they had the most confidence. In the second stage, each participant was randomly assigned one of eight sets of four photos of an African-American, Asian, Caucasian, or Hispanic male or female wearing that participantÕs preferred attire. One of these four photos showed a ÔtherapistÕ of standard body size and groomed according to typical clinical dress codes (no visible tattoos and no facial hair or excess makeup or jewelry). The persons shown in the other three images were either: overweight with standard clinical grooming; had visible tattoos but were standard size and had otherwise standard grooming; or had facial hair (males) or excessive makeup and jewelry (females) but were standard size and had no visible tattoos. The participant was asked to indicate which gave them the greatest and least confidence and to explain their reasoning. Selections were tallied and audio recordings were transcribed and analyzed for common themes.Results : Most participants preferred business casual attire, and had the most confidence in the therapist of standard body size and standard grooming and the least confidence in the one with visible tattoos. Initial analysis suggested that the themes detected in the rationales given for these choices varied both within and across therapist gender.Conclusions : Attire and appearance do affect outpatientsÕ levels of confidence in physical therapists.Clinical Relevance : Clinic dress codes that prohibit visible tattoos, facial hair for men and excessive makeup and jewelry for women adhere to patient preference. While body weight may not be regulated in the physical therapy workplace, it is important to recognize that patients do not have as much confidence in therapists who are overweight as those with normal weight.

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  • Control #: 2023967
  • Type: Poster
  • Event/Year: CSM2015
  • Authors: Andi Beth Mincer, David Bringman, Abby McAvoy, Taylor B. Goldman, Lauren L. Hughes, Jeremy Shearer
  • Keywords: Professionalism|Appearance|Patient perceptions

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