Patients judge the quality of your whole practice by the things they can observe and understand. Throughout a visit to your office, patients observe non-technical clues (like staff appearance) and project that image onto other things that they can't evaluate as easily (like the eye exam or the quality of prescription lenses). The reputation of a practice is truly based largely on perception!
For that reason, I provide uniforms as an employee benefit. I know opinions vary widely on this topic, but I'm convinced that it's a good thing for my practice.
Is it expensive? It could be viewed that way, but not compared to many other staff benefits, and I get a great return on the investment. Employees place a high value on benefits and they appreciate not having to pay for uniforms or clothing out of their salary. This increases employee retention.
Is it difficult to coordinate the uniform choice and please everyone? Yes, without a doubt. But after the decision is made, and the order comes in, everyone ends up happy and excited with the new look.
Does it make a good impression on patients? Absolutely! The staff looks professional and they feel like a team. Their attitude and confidence level improves and patients even seem to respect their skills more. I find that when people look better, they act better. We often have patients comment about how nice our uniforms look.
The main benefit I derive by providing uniforms is that I can control how staff members look. It's easy to become so accustomed to the clothing that employees wear that doctors and managers may not notice they are soiled, ill fitting, worn or drab. But patients will notice.
A few more tips...
- Order from mail order catalogs for easy delivery all at once. JCPenney has a uniform catalog and so do many specialty suppliers.
- Investigate the return policy in advance - it will happen.
- Order early in the season to avoid back orders.
- Order one uniform set first to have people try on for sizing and other problems, and then wash it to see how it turns out.
- We order new sets twice a year. Consider how many times each garment is worn and washed. They do wear out.
- Consider ordering 5 different colored shirts for each person and assigning one color to each day of the week. That way everyone wears the same color each day. We order crew neck short sleeve tops in the summer and turtlenecks in the winter.
- We also supply a few pairs of uniform pants and a lab jacket or smock. I don't like the sloppy look that resembles pajamas - but that's just me.
- We do not supply shoes, but we do have strict rules about them. White and no high tops.
- We require employees who leave our employ to return all uniforms before their final check is released. They are washed and they come in handy for a new staffer or as replacements for veterans.
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