Column: Professional attire: Yay or nay?


Commentary by Beverly Randolph


I so enjoy feedback to my articles, and I want to take this opportunity to share one in particular.   After reading it, what do you think?

Dear Beverly:  Just a note to say that I read your article in the Carmel Current regarding social skills;  I graduated twice from Marian University (then Marian College) and am presently working as a public health nurse.  After reading your article, I have another item to add, that is appearance.  Naturally everyone looks their best when going to an interview; it is in the work place that your appearance becomes a social issue.  In our department, we are now allowed to wear jeans to work, in the clinic or out on a home visit.  I don’t agree with this new intervention.  To me, appearance speaks highly of your personality.  For example, in the clinic setting, if two nurse come out into the waiting room, both wearing RN name tags, one wearing skinny jeans and a T-shirt, the other slacks and a lab coat, which of these do you (in your own mind) hold more respect for?  This goes in any office or work place.  A uniform of sorts often commands more respect, and the people wearing such act more accordingly, for the most part.  Just my two cents worth.  Cece

Dear Cece:  Thank you for reading my article and taking the time to provide feedback and asking my opinion. It appears that we have much in common: my late maternal grandmother’s was also a nurse named Cecelia as well as at Marian University.

Like it or not, people judge one another, including the way we dress.  (My late sister tried so hard to teach me how to dress casually without success; consider me old fashioned as I tend to still overdress even when casual in nature.)  Companies, and employees, frequently struggle with this very topic of appearance, including casual dress.  It is up to Human Resources and management to communicate what is acceptable dress, or not, as well as to reinforce same.

In my own mind, and as a former second-degree nursing student with Marian University for St. Vincent’s Health along with observing nurses most of my life due to my family members having a wide range of medical issues, I would respect both RN’s; however, right or wrong, I would perceive the RN dressed in slacks and lab coat as having more authority, education and experience and hope she would be my nurse.  I agree with you in that uniforms command more.  When conducting medical etiquette and dental office etiquette training, I advocate professional dress.

Major studies do indicate that the way we dress impacts our performance as well as how others perceive us, including that of nurses.  Please review these two articles, Perceptions of Today’s Nursing Attire: The Relationship of Professional Attire in Nursing to Patient and Nurse Satisfaction as well as What You Wear Can Influence How You Perform at and, respectively.

Do you have any etiquette dilemmas? Share them and any other etiquette questions you have.

Beverly Randolph, MA, is the Founder & Director of The Protocol School of Indianapolis and a certified Business Etiquette, Children’s Etiquette and International Protocol Consultant. Beverly lives in Carmel and is an Adjunct Instructor at Marian University teaching business-related courses.  Have any etiquette dilemmas? For more information, email Beverly at, call 317-430-5696, and/or visit    

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