January 11, 2023

Study: Patient perceptions of surgeons linked to color of scrub attire

By: Judy Mathias

Editor's Note

This study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill finds that scrub color is a valuable identification tool, and it is associated with patients’ perceptions of surgeons.

An electronic survey was administered to patients and visitors at the University of North Carolina Medical Center in Chapel Hill. Responses from 113 participants were included in the analysis (18-30 years of age, 24 participants; 31-60 years of age, 60 participants; more than 61 years of age, 29 participants).

Among the findings:

  • Green scrubs were most frequently chosen for surgeons, followed by blue--for males and females.
  • Black scrubs were most commonly identified with negative characteristics, including being least knowledgeable, skilled, trustworthy, and caring--for males and females.
  • Younger respondents aged 18 to 30 years most often identified green and blue scrubs with least trustworthy and least caring for male surgeons, green scrubs with least caring for female surgeons, and blue scrubs with most trustworthy for female surgeons.
  • Across all age groups, male and female surgeons in blue scrubs were most commonly identified as the most caring.

Though rapport depends on tangible and intangible factors, scrub color is an easily modifiable feature that may be a factor in the surgeon-patient relationship and, thus, clinical outcomes, the authors conclude.


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