Feeling a little lost in a clinical setting?  You're probably not getting any scrubs, so here's the down low on the dress code. 

I'm a lucky lady: no broken bones, a healthy family, and only 1 or 2 emergency visits (One of which I ended up in my OWN hospital's ER after viewing dialysis)...needless to say I had never spent much time in a hospital. So when my University required 100+ hours of clinical time the summer before my senior year, I felt lost. Although hospitals vary in the specifics of their dress codes, here's what I learned about clinical apparel from a large, south-eastern hospital. May you use it to avoid any  embarrassment and give the Nutrition Services department a good name.

Left side: Do's                                      Right side: Don'ts 

Dressing for Clinical 101

  • In the hospital setting conservative is king. The population you are deal with may be elderly so think "Would Grandma approve?". Avoid low necklines, high skirt-lines, and anything tight. Don't fool yourself: Those may be trousers but if they fit like spandex they don't belong on the hospital floor. Invest in 1-2 good pairs of trousers that you can mix with a variety of tops.
  • No allergens please. Fur and feathers are on the don't list. Your patients don't need any other health issues.
  • Closed toe shoes ONLY. Any facility that deals with gurneys and wheelchairs carries this rule for the safety of your tootsies. Please never wear flip flops anywhere near a hospital.
  • Low heels or thick heels. High heels aren't necessarily forbidden (thank goodness). My clinical supervisor wore gorgeous heels every day, but they were always closed toe and had a wide heel as opposed to a stick thin stiletto.  If you can't live without the heels, look into the Cole Haan collection with NIKE AIR technology!
  • Nix the morbid apparel. People are very sensitive and can become easily upset while they're in a hospital. Example: If you're sick and your doctor can't figure out a dx do you really want to see images like skulls?
  • Limit the bling. Patients can ask off putting questions about jewelry price (My RD used this response "Let's not focus on me Mr. X, let's talk about how you are feeling today."). The focus needs to be on your skills, not your wild outfit or earrings, necklace, AND bracelets. One jewelry item you might want to avoid in particular is bangles. They are noisy and can make it difficult to chart quietly.
  • To lab coat or not to lab coat? Many hospitals have RD's who wear lab coats. Most chose to at my hospital, but not all. Students and interns wore a different color jacket for identification purposes, so check with your field experience facility.
  • Four Eyes for 20/20. If you need reading glasses, for goodness sake keep extras in your car or purse. Not being able to read a chart isn't a good reason for a mistake.

Happy hospital-ing!


yes vs no: internships by CH0711 featuring gold tops