I suggested this topic because, like Michelynn noted in her posting, I wanted to hear from my colleagues about their thoughts on professional attire for librarians, particularly in hospitals.  There's been an ongoing debate in the nursing literature about whether or not nurses should go back to a recognizable uniform rather than anonymous scrubs that can't be distinguished from those worn by non-nurses.  Shouldn't we discuss our appearance and roles and professionalism?  With the proposal of the role of clinical librarian, should we wear lab coats in that role, that is, when on the floors where patients are?  Someone suggested that we might be mistaken for a clinician.  Dieticians wear lab coats but aren't expected to perform CPR since their role is clear from their title of Dietician.  

Folks suggested we wear business attire in hospitals to try to blend in with administrators. That brings up an interesting point of whether we're identifying with administration or with the clinical aspects of the hospital.  We kind of fall between the two.  What about those of us who have a consumer health role as well?  Would patients and their families respect our expertise as medical librarians more if we wore suits or lab coats?  Would we seem TOO administration-like to families if we wore suits?  Too clinician-like if we wore lab coats?  If we wear skirts or slacks and tops would everyone think we're just like the clerical staff in the medical staff office, finance office, etc.  Wouldn't this be especially true if we're not allowed to add our MLS onto our badge?  Should we compensate for that with lab coats?  I've seen doctors, pharmacists, and others casually dressed in chinos and a golf shirt but covered with a lab coat to add a professional aspect to their attire.

I don't have the answers to these questions but I think we might want to think about our roles in hospitals, our attire and how these two interact.  Anyone prepared to think all this through and write an article for the literature?  It really isn't a trivial topic but one I think we should consider.  Joy

Joy Kennedy, MLS
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Northwest Community Healthcare
Health Resource Library
800 W. Central Rd.
Arlington Heights,IL  60005-2392
Phone: (847) 618-5180
Fax: (847) 618-5189

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