Dress and address in hospital psychiatry: an issue?

P. M. Stokvis, N. H. C. Driessens, J. G. Lijmer, H. D. Sierink, B. Torensma, A. Honig

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Background and aims: To assess the preferences of Dutch psychiatric patients in three general hospital psychiatric settings for the dress of psychiatrists and patients preference to be addressed by psychiatrists. To assess the associations concerning different clothing styles and the attributes of the patient–doctor relationship. Methods: One hundred and seventy-three adults, in and outpatients (aged 18–89 years) attending the psychiatry departments of three general hospitals, were included during the period June 2015 to May 2016. In these hospitals, the psychiatrist staff has different clothing policies. Data were analyzed with SPSS21. Results: Divided over the three hospitals, 173 patients were included, 96 inpatients and 77 outpatients. The patients’ opinions on the psychiatrists' dress differed significantly between the hospitals in line with the local hospital clothing policy (p = 0.002 for the male psychiatrists, p = 0.000 for the female psychiatrists). The patients’ ethnicity significantly influenced their preferences for dress and address, as a majority of the patients with a non-Dutch ethnic background expressed a preference for white coats, and address by surname (RR = 2.0, p = 0.003 for male and RR = 2.1 p = 0.002 for female psychiatrists). A significant difference in preference for being addressed by their first names by the psychiatrist was found between Dutch and non-native Dutch patients (RR = 2.6, p = 0.005). According to patients, the male psychiatrist in trousers and a long sleeve shirt and female psychiatrist in casual clothing were most often associated as being the friendliest, a white coat as being the most competent, and wearing smart attire as being the most accessible. Conclusion: Patients’ preferences are in line with current local clothing habits. Ethnicity, setting and country influence a patient’s preferences. Casual clothing for psychiatrists is assessed as being the friendliest but as the least competent, and white coats are assessed as being the most competent but as being less friendly and less accessible.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)642-648
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Mental Health
Issue number6
Early online date16 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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