January 26, 2024

Scrub color affects how patients perceive clinicians

Editor's Note:

A recent study shows the color of a clinicians’ scrubs is a factor in how patients view clinicians and, by extension, the clinician-patient relationship as well as clinical outcomes. The findings were published January 11 in Jama Surgery.

Although previous research has established connections between physician’s attire and patient confidence, researchers in this case sought to examine scrub color specifically. In summer of 2019, they issued an electronic survey presenting visitors at the University of North Carolina Medical Center in Chapel Hill with of a male and female physician in light blue, navy blue, green, and black scrubs. Participants were asked which image looked most like a surgeon, as well as which appeared most knowledgeable, skilled, trustworthy, and caring. Highlights include:

  • Green was the color most strongly identified for surgeons, followed by blue, for both genders.
  • Black was most commonly identified with each negative characteristic.
  • However, participants aged 18-30 identified male models wearing green and blue as least trustworthy, a contrast with older survey respondents.
  • Researchers also observed a similar participant-age association for the “least caring” trait.
  • Models wearing blue scrubs were most commonly identified as most caring among all participant age groups.

Although rapport depends on both tangible and intangible factors, scrub color is "an easily modifiable feature that may be a factor in the clinician-patient relationship, and thus, clinical outcomes,” the researchers conclude. Having established a potential association between scrub color and perception, they now aim to pursue more rigorous follow-up study.


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