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What not to wear

March 2010

On the long-running television hit, What Not to Wear, some of the worst-dressed people you will ever see get fashion makeovers from a couple of stylish hosts. While the end results are uplifting, the show’ s real fun comes in its opening moments as fashion victims are secretly filmed at their homes and jobs in their most atrocious attire.

The camera usually captures lots of spandex, too-tight shorts, garish colors, and gaudy, mismatched accessories. In other words, it’ s not unlike the scene in many ERs in which I’ ve worked.

This is not to say that hospitalists are any more stylish than our patients. But we do have the option of covering our worst wardrobe mistakes with a long white coat.

I can only imagine the footage if the ” What Not to Wear” cameras were pointed inside a typical physician’ s lounge. I think it might show several different hospitalist fashion types that I’ ve observed over the years.

“Dr. Debonair”: This is the prototypical “sharp dressed man.” Business casual, sans the tie, with a natty sportcoat or blazer, open collar and an approachable but professional look. The ladies’ version entails a tailored blouse and skirt and shoes by Prada.

Wouldn’t we all like to be this doc? Straight from the gym to the hospital each morning, he wears the same size pants that he did in high school. Dr. Debonair leaves patients and families impressed and the nurses in awe. Alas, this type is rarely seen on the hospitalist service and more likely is a cardiologist.

“Dr. Starch”: We all know him: white coat, sharp creases, pockets that won’t open because they are pressed shut. There is the dry-cleaned shirt (solid color, of course), buttoned at the neck, and a striped tie with the perfect Windsor knot. He is serious, confident, the consummate professional, but not exactly fashion forward. Indeed, this doc may be due for a wardrobe update considering the recent studies on how white coats and ties are spreading infection.

“Dr. Rumple”: Usually a nocturnist, wearing wrinkled scrubs and a white coat that has been hanging on the back of the door since the early 90’s. The pockets on one side of the coat are stuffed with patient lists and sign-outs from last week, while “The Washington Manual” on the other.

Then there are the mismatched socks and, of course, Crocs. The hair is something out of “Where the Wild Things Are” and shaving is something day doctors do. The “What Not to Wear hosts” would have a field day with this look, as do the patients, who wonder, “Who WAS that creature of the night?” Be afraid, be very afraid.

As for me, I won’t say which of these hospitalist styles I lean toward. But on my worst days, I can only hope that the cameras are nowhere in sight.