With telehealth having become a big part of clinical practice, we have had to rethink what we wear to work. I have coined the term “Telewear” for outfits that are best suited for telehealth clinical visits.
Does it even matter what we wear?
Some of us can have an understandable tendency to not care about what we wear on a video call. I think that is a mistake. Just because we are seeing the patient virtually does not mean that it is not important what we wear.
Many people simply throw on a “Zoom shirt“, which the Urban Dictionary defines as “A clean shirt or blouse that’s kept on the back of your desk chair to quickly be presentable for video conferences.” 🙂
In the past, there have been surveys about what patients think about what clinicians should wear. But, surprisingly, as of August 2021, I was not able to find any published data about how patients react to what mental health clinicians wear during virtual visits. I don’t think we can extrapolate from what patients think about what some other specialties wear. For example, a small survey of virtual visits with orthopedic sports surgeons found that patients thought that it was fine for the surgeons to even wear T-shirts (Greif et al., 2021).
So, the recommendations below are based on my opinion and what I have read here and there. I will modify these recommendations as and when I get more information from any source.
We don’t need to be too formal
I would love to know what you think about this, but it seems that it may be OK to dress a little less formally for video calls than we would for in-person meetings.
That said, the decision about how much to dress up is not really different from when we see patients in person. A survey in the business world by Harvard Business Review suggested that even for virtual meetings, the more we want to be seen as experts, the more we may want to dress formally (Zandan and Lynch, 2020).
What NOT to wear
Some types of clothes that are fine when meeting in person can be problematic in video calls. We should look out for this possibility and consider avoiding such clothes. This can be simply in the nature of the video image. But, I think that, more importantly, in a video call the other person has a smaller amount of area to look at compared to when they are in our offices for an in-person meeting. So, the clothes become “amplified”, so to speak. These types of clothes can include:
– Clothes with strong patterns (stripes, checks) or a busy print
– Very brightly colored clothes
– Low necklines for women’s clothes
What to wear
– Instead of clothes with strong patterns solid-colored clothes are generally preferable.
– Are there any colors that might be better for video calls? A simple and practical principle is to wear colors that are in contrast to the color of the wall behind us. So, lighter colors if the wall behind us is dark and vice versa.
What do YOU wear for telehealth visits with patients? Please do share your comments with all of us (under “Leave a Reply” below).
Greif DN, Shallop BJ, Rizzo MG, Cade Ii WH, Letter M, Muñoz J, Baraga MG, Kaplan LD. Telehealth in an Orthopedic Sports Medicine Clinic: The First 100 Patients. Telemed J E Health. 2021 Jan 29. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2020.0462. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33513048.
Zandan N, Lynch H. Dress for the (Remote) Job You Want. Harvard Business Review (2020).
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