Optimal Image, Optimal Success

In Culture by Dental Entrepreneur

What do YOU think about your image at work? Often times the longer we have worked someplace the less we think about our image in the workplace.  In general, our image is thought of as the external representation of our inner self.  Now Shakespeare said that “skim milk sometimes masquerades as cream”, meaning of course that we use the external tools available to represent ourselves in a more flattering light then is actually our true character.  Clearly I am not suggesting we do that, instead my experience over the last 25 years as a dental consultant has been just the opposite. I think we often under represent our professional quality and skills through the poorly chosen uniforms we wear.

The clinical team from the doctor to the assistants are highly trained health care professionals. Professionals worth of respect. Their uniforms are really important because it effects how others perceive them and treat them and respond to their advice.
I am a BIG FAN of understanding the impact our appearance has on three very important areas.

  1. The financial success and branding of the practice
  2. The effect it has on the patient’s experience while in your office.
  3. The physical and physiological impact on each member of the team.

Does anyone remember the episode of The Simpsons when all the children were dressed in drab grey smocks and their attempts at painting were equally drab? Where the clouds opened up dripping colored paint onto their smocks and EVERYTHING changed? The students were happier and more creative.   It was a simplistic visual for what so many researchers continue to observe which is we literally take on the quality and makeup of the clothes we wear.   You really are what you wear. It changes your self perception and it changes how others treat you.

Let’s start with the white lab coat myth. That’s right the myth that says patients will find you less approachable and understanding if you wear a lab jacket – wrong. How approachable you are and your skills as a great listener are all in the hands of you and your body language. Warm smiling face trumps ANYTHING else. Sloppy, ill fitting low quality scrubs are the kiss of death for anyone’s professional image. These same scrubs are issued as standard prison attire in many institutions today. Not a great option for our clinical team.

I love a great lab coat. The most important thing that your patients is looking for is someone with knowledge and the professional experience to answer their questions and solve their health issues. A crisp white lab jacket is your best friend in this area.
Not all lab jackets are created equal. I could show you photo after photo of What Not to Wear in lab jackets but I can’t bring myself to embarrass the people in my profession I so deeply value but the photos are out there – on websites, Face book postings and magazine covers. They are there because no one with knowledge and a critical eye stepped the team through uniform and lab coat selection.

So let’s take a minute to outline 5 things you should know in reference to lab jackets.

  1. Fit is first and foremost. All body types are different in their proportions and your lab jacket selection must take that into consideration. If you have a small variance in height and body proportions you might be able to order your jackets from the same vender or you will want to be sure to allow time and funds for appropriate alterations.   I am a big fan of Twice As Nice Uniforms for many reasons with one of those reasons being that they have styles within their brand to address the issue of petite and body diversity and they are wrinkle free.
  2. Your lab jackets must fit first in the shoulders.   The shoulder seam is not a good option for alterations and it has to sit directly on the top of your arm where your shoulder meets you’re your arm.   Just starting there you can look at your team and see a wide diversity that often may or may not be connected to weight and height.   Measure your team members from shoulder to shoulder to see how much variance you have and then order from there.   Order lab jacket that have gathering in the back to show off or insinuate a waistline. This is flattering on both men and women but particularly favored on all women. Lab jackets that are too bulky will just make you look heavier, less fit and sloppy. Therefore – putting that ill fitting item on will have you feeling the same way. Sleeves are often the easiest thing to have altered if needed.
  3. The quality of the material is the second most important aspect in your lab jacket selection. This is NOT the place to be CHEAP. You are covering yourself and your team with this item of clothing that either says you specialize in cheap and low quality or you can take the opportunity to make a statement about your level of professionalism.
  4. Have your lab jackets customized with your office logo on the left side of the jacket and then have each and every team member wear their name tag on the right side of their attire. The name tag worn on the right side of the chest just below the scapula allows your patients to read the name when greeted with a handshake.
  5. I strongly favor collared blouses in crisp permanent press materials and pants that do not have a drawstring but have their own waistband. I also favor the pants that are not the old school style of being wide at the bottom.

What to avoid:

The two biggest culprits in dental office attire would be cheap loose fitting scrubs and large golf shirts worn with scrub bottoms.     All scrubs are not created equal. A budget of about $900 – $1,200 twice/year is realistic for each clinical team member when writing out your yearly budget. This is a business expense of high value and impact. Done right this will make you money – done poorly you pay the price every day in ways you will never know. This is NOT where you step over dollars to pick up pennies. This is where you knowledgeably invest and plan for the success of your practice. We feel and act differently depending on what we wear.

I am a huge advocate for paying for the shoes as well as the uniforms for the clinical team. Shoe color and material should be clearly described in your written Office Guidelines with the brand of shoe Crocs not an option. Each team member should be able to select their own shoe to best fit their feet within the color and material guidelines. Patients should not be able to tell at first glance that there is any difference is this aspect of their uniform.   There is a complimentary Office Attire Guideline on my website www/dentistrysimageexpert.com to help start the conversation with your team and to have a simple template with which to write your own personal copy.

Last but not least

Hire and keep individuals who are happy, people who describe their lives in positive adjectives. You want team members who love what they do and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. It is NOT YOUR JOB to make them happy. It is your job to provide them with an environment that fosters their professional growth and one of appreciation. Dressing your team in optimal professional attire is just one of those great gifts you get to give. The smiles on their faces are priceless.

Janice Hurley is Dentistry’s Image Expert

A noted authority on treatment presentation and the effective use of photos and video in the dental practice. Janice consults and coaches “hands on” and through articles published  and programs presented. Even dental hygiene schools use her written protocol standards for both image and effective communication.

After earning her degree in Organizational Behavior from The University of San Francisco, Janice has invested more than 25 years’ experience as a dental consultant, helping her clients gain higher treatment acceptance and attract higher quality patients. As an international author and speaker on what it takes to project professional excellence and confidence so others feel it instantly, her goal is for everyone to use their professional energy for personal success.

Her energy is contagious and audiences inevitably leave raving fans and ready to reenergize their lives, and their practices. Janice has been a featured speaker with the Thomas P. Hinman Dental Meetings, Yankee Dental Congress, American Academy of Cosmetic Dentists, American Association of Endodontists, Philips Sonicare, Academy of Dental CPA’s , Henry Schein, and many, many more.

Attendees to her courses have described her as profoundly articulate, gracefully charismatic and powerfully entertaining. She really is the expert on personal presence & professional success in dentistry today.  Her input on how patients see you TODAY is spot on and priceless.  She takes offices through a 30 point IMAGE evaluation that allows those offices to set themselves apart from their competition. www.dentistrysimageexpert.com 619 255-1098