A female pharmacist sits with a senior female patient in the pharmacist consultation area and discusses her prescription and choice of medication. In the background a father and daughter stand at the dispensing counter and are served by a female pharmacy assistant .

Seeking a Healthcare Career? 7 Steps to Creating a Professional Demeanor That Keeps You on the Job

In the healthcare industry, maintaining a professional demeanor is critical. Not only do you want to be sure that you’ll be recognized for the time and effort you’ve put into your studies, you want to be sure that patients have a sense of confidence in you. You’re responsible for dealing with sensitive and private information, providing advice and treatment, and reassuring patients. With a calm, professional demeanor, you’ll be better able to control your patient interactions and put yourself in a better position to increase patient confidence. 

A female pharmacist sits with a senior female patient in the pharmacist consultation area and discusses her prescription and choice of medication. In the background a father and daughter stand at the dispensing counter and are served by a female pharmacy assistant .

Step One: Be Positive

No, you don’t need to go skipping down the halls, singing about all the wonderful opportunities that are open to you. Rather, you should maintain a positive attitude whenever you interact with your patients or coworkers. An attitude of doom and gloom or constant complaints–especially complaints relating to your job or coworkers–can quickly destroy patient confidence and convince them that they can’t trust you to adequately handle their case, which can, over time, erode your odds of promotion or even destroy your career. Instead, try to be upbeat. Remember why you chose to do what you do and why you enjoy it. When a coworker, from a nurse to a doctor, asks you to accomplish a task, do it cheerfully and calmly. This simple step inspires a great deal more confidence in your patients than seeing you come in complaining before you’ve even had a chance to get to know them. A dose of positive can go a long way toward improving your professional appearance. 

Step Two: Avoid Drama

“You know, we were just back in the nurse’s station talking about Deborah’s husband and…” “I don’t want to cause trouble, but you’ve dealt with Dr. Brown, and I haven’t been impressed with his diagnoses in the past.” Whether you’re talking directly to a patient or chatting at the nurse’s station, one of the fastest ways to decrease patient confidence and drop that professional demeanor is to get involved in drama. Your personal life doesn’t belong at work, especially when you’re dealing with patients. Instead, keep it professional while you’re on the clock! Avoid conflict with coworkers, and try not to get sucked into drama–even if a patient is the one to initiate the complaint. 

Step Three: Get Organized

There’s something reassuring about a medical professional who walks into a room and already knows exactly where everything is. Whether it’s a routine exam or an emergency, they don’t have to scramble for the proper materials; rather, they’re able to easily access exactly what they need. In many medical settings, it can be hard to keep up with simple organization tasks, but it’s a step that’s well worth it! Create a system that works for you, whether you’re pushing medical carts down the halls of a hospital or organizing an exam room in an office. Organize your personal supplies so that you know exactly where everything is. This can create a big difference in the way you appear to both patients and colleagues. 

Step Four: Listen

One of the most effective ways to create an aura of professionalism is to simply listen to those around you–both other workers and patients. As a doctor, for example, if a nurse tells you something, there’s a good chance that it’s important, whether they’ve observed odd patient behavior or noted a symptom you need to pay attention to. It also pays to listen to patients. Sometimes, they’re babbling just to talk or to calm their nerves, but other times, they may have something to say that genuinely relates to their care. Simply listening to them and giving genuine, considered responses can help increase their confidence in you and put you in a better position to provide high-quality care. 

Step Five: Be Honest

A little girl is at the doctors office for a check up. A nurse is sitting with them and talking to the mother.

It’s often tempting to blur the truth a little in a work environment, especially when you’re dealing with difficult patients. “Of course I remembered to tell the patient X.” “It wasn’t my turn to complete X task.” If you want to create a more professional attitude, however, be honest–both with your colleagues and with your patients. Own up to your mistakes and do what’s necessary to make it right. If things are way behind in the office, don’t tell patients that they’ll be seen in just a few minutes–give them an accurate assessment of what your schedule looks like, then offer them the ability to choose for themselves how they want to handle it. Honesty truly is the best policy–and it creates a more professional demeanor and appearance for your entire office. 

Step Six: Check the Small Stuff

As a medical professional, you know that there’s really no “small stuff” when it comes to dealing with patients. Inevitably, it’s the test you forgot to run or the gauge you forgot to check that turns out to be the most important to your patient. If you want to maintain a more professional demeanor, take the time to check the small stuff. Not only does this increase your quality of patient care, it shows your patients that you genuinely care about them and are willing to work hard to get to the bottom of whatever problem they’re having. 

Step Seven: Check Your Appearance

As nice as it would be if appearances didn’t matter, your appearance can go a long way toward establishing your professionalism in the eyes of your patients and your colleagues. Do a quick appearance check each day to make sure that you look as professional as possible. Check your scrubs to be sure that they’re clean and unstained. If they’re starting to look too worn, it may be time for a replacement. Keep your hair up and away from your face. For women, makeup should be professional and clean, rather than obvious or overdone. Take a quick look in the mirror: do you look like a medical professional that you’d want to treat you? If not, clean up your appearance for the benefit of everyone around you.

Taking the leap to become more professional can go a long way toward advancing your medical career and improving the confidence that patients have in you. With these seven steps, you can transform your demeanor so that patients will be able to more easily see just how capable you are. Want more information? Check out our course entitled, “How to Learn Professionalism in Healthcare (with Real-World Examples!),” which offers strategies to increase your professionalism and give you a winning attitude for success!

Professional Dress in the Medical Office: A quick guide

A big part of any job is appropriate dress. While some companies will provide uniforms, many office jobs leave it to the employee’s discretion. Sometimes knowing what is appropriate is difficult, especially when you are trying to add some color or style to your daily wardrobe. Avidity Medical Design understands that success comes from both knowledge and appearance, and want to provide you with a clear list of things to avoid when selecting an outfit for the office. Even though they specialize in course creation for the medical field, they also offer advice on maintaining professionalism and other challenges in the workplace. Check out their blog for other great informative pieces!

professional dress in the medical officeYour clothes should fit you properly, match, and be clean.

Your outfit says a lot about you, especially when you are at work. If your clothes are don’t fit, have clashing colors, or obvious stains and smells, it lets people know work was probably not a priority for you. So when you’re evaluating clothes, avoid items that your are either hanging out of, swimming in, or are otherwise unflattering. Don’t forget that the sales staff are there to help you select items that fit and match appropriately. Take advantage of this if you are unsure! Likewise, the cleanliness of your clothing is just as important as your own personal hygiene, and even more so in a medical setting. Taking the extra step to clean and maintain your clothes sends a strong message to your employer and your clients.

Avoid clothes designed for working out or relaxing.

You’re work clothes need to be comfortable. Don’t be distracted by ill-fitting or otherwise uncomfortable clothing when youshould be focused on work. However, some items are just a bit too comfortable. Workout clothes are great for working out and everyone should have some comfy sweats for after work or the weekends. But when you dress like this at work, you’re sending a message similar to the previous point; that you don’t want to be there. If you could run a marathon or watch a marathon in what you’re wearing, don’t wear it to work.

Logos or other messages aside from work related

Try and avoid clothing that advertises for bands, beverages, designer companies, or have jokes and slogans written on them. It’s distracting, unprofessional, and sends a bad message to the customer. The exceptions are items that have company logos on them, or are related to office events, such as a company sponsored 5k run or picnic. Even then, such items should be reserved for a casual day, if applicable.

Keep your face friendly and approachable!

Your smiling face is your best attribute, letting patients and clients know that they are safe and welcome. While society’s views are changing on the issue of tattoos, piercings, and dyed/extreme hair and makeup, keep in mind that you’re representing your office and therefore have an image to upkeep. The rule is to cover up anything that might make a customer feel uncomfortable. Professional attire covers the majority of your body, giving you more than enough room for tattoos or piercings. When choosing a hairstyle, try to select one that can be tamed during the workday to look presentable. And makeup can be light and subtle in the office, to keep with the theme of a warm and welcoming office to the public. The best rule to keep in mind is to tone it down or cover it up!

Sheila McCray, the person behind Avidity Medical Design, wants to help turn good students into great professionals. She also works to design and create courses in instructional design for medicine and healthcare, medical course analysis and recommendations, and medical subject matter expertise. If you are interested in these services, contact Avidity Medical Design, and follow them on Twitter!