Adam Abrahms Discusses Hospital Uniforms and Changing Dress Codes

Becker’s Hospital Review

Adam C. Abrahms, Member of the Firm in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management and Health Care and Life Sciences practices, in the firm’s Los Angeles office, was quoted in Becker’s Hospital Review, in “Why Johns Hopkins Physician Interns Won’t Wear Short White Coats Anymore,” by Kelly Gooch.

Following is an excerpt:

As the healthcare industry and society have changed, so have hospitals’ dress codes. …

Hospitals change their dress codes for a variety of reasons, even after the policies have been in place for years or even decades. Most changes come amid staff concerns and/or efforts to improve patient experience and outcomes.  

Becker’s Hospital Review recently talked with multiple healthcare organizations to gain further understanding into why they implemented dress code changes and their goals in doing so. …

Calif.-based [Health System] made a dress code change in 2014 regarding standard uniform for patient care providers.

The change requires these providers wear different colored uniforms based on their clinical expertise and education levels. Previously, they could wear any color or pattern. For instance, registered nurses wear one color, while dieticians wear another color and respiratory therapists wear another. The uniforms are also embroidered with the worker’s job title.

The original goal with the dress code change was to make it easier for hospital staff and patients to identify workers and their roles, according to Adam Abrahms of Epstein Becker & Green, the hospital’s outside legal counsel.

“Back then, the change was instituted because of studies that proved patient care results [improved] when employees are easily identifiable by expertise,” he said. If “patients know by color of uniform [the worker is] a nurse, [the patient] will feel more comfortable than if they don’t know the role of the person. So part of it was recognizing that having people be easily identifiable in [a] crisp, clean manner has positive patient care results.” …

Still, Mr. Abrahms, who has worked with hospital systems in California that have implemented similar plans and programs … acknowledged that generally speaking, anytime hospitals institute a uniform change, employees want to know why the uniform change is occurring and the potential economic impact for them.

He said those issues were apparent in 2014 … although minor since the uniforms were paid for by the hospital. Once staff understands the uniform change, their anxiety over it, in his experience, usually subsides.

“Once instituted, it usually works really smooth. People know what they’re going to wear, they feel comfortable with it,” said Mr. Abrahms.