In favor of scrubs

A reader and a consultant disagree on when to wear scrubs.
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Sep 01, 2008
By dvm360.com staff

I am a registered veterinary technician and an instructor in a veterinary technology program. I enjoy your magazine and read it monthly. I've even used some articles in my classroom. But I must voice my opinion about a comment made by Debbie Allaben Gair in the article "Are You Serious?" (April 2008).

I disagree and was somewhat offended by the comment, "Scrubs look like you're wearing your pajamas to work." Our students are required to wear scrubs as uniforms, and we always receive positive feedback from the community about how professional the students look. How are these students supposed to feel when they read something like this? Many of our students receive Firstline, so I'm sure I'll be hearing from some of them about this article.

It may be perfectly appropriate for receptionists or office managers to wear polos and slacks, but it's not an appropriate uniform for technical team members who regularly restrain animals that dirty their clothes with fur, blood, and urine. Human physicians and registered nurses wear scrubs. Does this mean they're unprofessional? As a technician and an educator, I feel the article might have confused veterinary professionals about appropriate dress in the workplace.

Jennifer Limon, BAS, RVT
Veterinary Technology, Delgado Community College
Covington, La.

Debbie Allaben Gair responds:

Veterinary professionals need to make a great first impression on clients. Pet owners choose their veterinary care provider based on numerous factors, such as the facility's physical upkeep, the building's smell, and the team members' kindness, confidence, and professionalism. The team uniform is also part of this first impression.

Scrubs do have their place in our industry but, in my opinion, they're not appropriate dress for the workplace. Since scrubs are common, clients see them as standard veterinary attire. So clients take special notice when veterinary team members wear business casual attire. It's a look that sets the practice a notch above the rest, and it adds to the practice's perceived value. Clients notice this difference and pay better attention to the staff and doctors. As a result, pet owners become better educated and are more likely to follow recommendations and choose the best care for their pets.

"If we take a look at the big picture and recognize our main focus is to work as the pet's advocate, the uniform choice for a veterinary hospital becomes clear," says Rick Schulkey, the practice manager at Madison Veterinary Hospital in Madison Heights, Mich. His staff wears a clean-pressed uniform consisting of a button-down collared shirt and khaki style pants. The veterinarians and technicians only wear scrubs when performing surgery. When interacting with clients during exams or performing any other non-surgical duties, they wear the staff uniform.

Some veterinary teams will continue to wear scrubs as their daily work attire. Others will choose to set their veterinary care facilities apart with a higher dress code that meets and exceeds client expectations. Newly graduating technicians will need to make the same choice about their dress. I wish your students well and thank you for your role in bringing them into the veterinary industry.

Debbie Allaben Gair, CVPM
President, Bridging the Gap
Sparta, Mich.

Editor's note: You can read more about veterinary team member attire in the article "Three Looks Your Practice Will Love" by Shawn G. McVey, MA, MSW. As you make your decision about how to outfit your team members, remember that you must do what's right for your practice. Take our advice and tailor it to fit your practice's culture. For even more ideas about dressing to impress, visit http://dvm360.com/.

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