With summer weather here, I thought we might spend some time checking out veterinary fashion tips. To be fair, this advice has NOT previously appeared in Cosmo or Vogue and is subject to my own old codger-esque bias.
DO WEAR A NAME TAG
Nobody wants to see the student loan tab to prove that you have a Der (Dr.) in front of your name. Your clients don’t know what a DVM is. Whether it’s a traditional name tag, embroidered lab coat, or picture badge, make sure you are wearing your ID at client eye level and it has the Der (Dr.) in front of your name.
DON’T INTRODUCE YOURSELF BY YOUR FIRST NAME
Your RVTs and receptionists have first names too. Shake hands with new visitors to your clinic and introduce yourself professionally. If you want your clients to KNOW that they’re speaking to the veterinarian who is about to give them advice about their animals, introduce yourself as Dr. Sally Surgeon or, at least, as Dr. Sally.
DO WEAR A LAB COAT OR COVERALLS
Consulting coats come in an assortment of colours if you are a fashion-forward or low-patient-stress doctor whose skin tone looks pasty against hospital white. Coveralls for mixed animal vets will separate you from the teenager in jeans traipsing after you on your farm calls. You are looking to separate yourself as the voice of advocacy for the pet owner’s fur baby or the producer’s Holstein with an LDA. Your clients already know everything there is to know about vaccines from Dr. Google (see, even the internet has a Der!), so help them recognize you as the veterinary professional by wearing a fresh lab coat or pair of coveralls.
DON’T WEAR CARTOON SCRUB TOPS
I know that Dalmatians with pink stethoscopes are cute, and the parrot scrubs were a gift from your favourite Auntie Evelyn. Unfortunately, clients can’t tell who is who in the clinic zoo if you are wearing the same adorable scrubs as your university student kennel assistant. The price you pay for the Der in front of your name is that you get to wear the Hello Kitty scrubs at home for Netflix binge watching.
DO WEAR CLOSED-TOED SHOES
This one is probably for me alone. My patients have terrible (make that great) aim when peeing or splashing anal gland secretions on my feet. I NEED the protection of closed toes! As I’m getting older, I also need substantial arch support to keep my feet from aching at the end of the day. And, Heather, we will have to agree to disagree about Crocs. I don’t understand them and never will. Mixed practitioners know that foot safety comes first when it comes to large animal medicine.
DON’T WEAR FLIP-FLOPS
I get that you work 60-plus-hour weeks and your only treat-yourself moments come during your pedicures. You can’t wear nail polish on your fingers, because you are a world class surgeon who cares more about her patients than her vanity. Your clients, however, will not appreciate the artistry of flowers on your big toe. They will have a harder time listening to you tell them they are less than correct about coconut oil if you look like you can’t wait to get to the beach yourself.
WHY AM I SO OLD CODGER-ESQUE?
The same thing is happening in human medicine. A few months ago, I my husband ended up in the “human” ER. I asked the lovely young woman in the hoodie at the nursing station to get more ice for my husband’s cold pack. No ice, but fifteen minutes later she came in and introduced herself as the ER doc. Her picture badge was tucked into her scrub pants inside the hoodie. Oops.
Let’s face it. Women are taking over veterinary medicine from the clinic to the research laboratory to the corporate boardroom. The thing is…most of us look very young when we first graduate from vet school. Lay people can have a hard time distinguishing the veterinarian from the receptionist or veterinary technologist if we’re all wearing the same Scooby Doo scrubs. Each of us has our particular area of expertise, but doctors are responsible for making the difficult medical decisions, building client confidence, and generating financial stability within the practice. Use your fashion choices to help your clients identify you as the doctor and succeed as the medical professional that you know you are.
See you next time in the waiting room!
(Special thanks to the staff of Anderson Animal Hospital for RJ’s tie collection photo!)