How to Project a Professional Image at Your Pharmacy

Here's Why What Pharmacists Wear Matters to Independent Pharmacies by Elements magazine |

Inside: What pharmacists wear can determine how approachable and professional they seem. Here’s why independent pharmacists and staff need to dress professionally every day.

Like it or not, what pharmacists wear determines how people perceive them.

Wouldn’t you feel uncomfortable with a banker wearing a T-shirt and jeans handling your mortgage? And, you’d likely pass on letting a real estate agent dressed in sweatpants show you houses.

It makes sense then that clothing could also sway how patients view your independent pharmacy. And if you look like a slob, they’ll think your business is sloppy too.

What pharmacists wear and what other staff members wear tells people something about your business. Do you know what clothing is telling your patients?

Why clothing matters

Countless studies have demonstrated that clothing can shape people’s perceptions.

What pharmacists wear can determine how patients view you. Whether that’s competent, friendly, and trustworthy. Or none of the above.

Like people make certain assumptions about someone wearing jeans with holes versus a business suit, they also form opinions based on the clothing their pharmacist wears.

Except these assumptions can affect their health care.

Patients’ observations about their pharmacists can determine whether they feel comfortable with them. As such, pharmacists and pharmacy owners should consider the function of workwear in best meeting patients’ needs. You want patients to have trust in you as a professional, but also feel comfortable approaching you.

Related: These Are the Most Overlooked Ways to Make Your Pharmacy Look More Professional

In the pharmacy

Building positive relationships with patients starts with making a good impression.

The moment a patient steps up to the pharmacy counter—before you ever counsel her or answer her health questions—she’ll have already made assumptions based on your appearance.

What does it say about you?

Darran Alberty, Owner and Pharmacist at D&H Drugstore in Columbia, Mo., expects his pharmacy staff to dress professionally. The pharmacy techs wear dark navy scrubs, which add to the clinical atmosphere of the pharmacy. The pharmacists wear business casual style clothes and white lab coats.

“As a retail pharmacy, it’s important for us to try to protect our professional image,” he said. “We also want to balance staff comfort at the same time. In a close working environment where you have to be on your feet all day, we want our employees to be comfortable.”

Lori Bartlett, Owner and Pharmacist at Community Pharmacy in Nevada, Mo., describes her pharmacy’s dress code as “dress casual.”

On Fridays, they wear jeans and polo shirts with the pharmacy’s logo on them. But Bartlett said she expects her staff to look professional the rest of the week. That means wearing items like khakis and professional shirts.

“It’s important that we portray a professional appearance so that we’re being acknowledged for our advice,” Bartlett said. “We want patients to recognize the services we provide, not just associate our knowledge with pills in a bottle.”

Dress for business success

Everything in the physical environment of your pharmacy can affect how patients feel about your business.

You know boxes piled up in the middle of your aisles looks bad. But sometimes pharmacy owners fail to consider the role of employees’ appearances in shaping patients’
perceptions. And what pharmacists wear plays a big part in those perceptions.

In the highly competitive retail pharmacy market today, consumers are bombarded with choices. When your pharmacy displays a professional image, you can help consumers narrow down those choices. So, they’ll choose your pharmacy as the best option for them.

“How your team dresses says a lot about how different you are from the ‘typical’ business in your industry,” said John DiJulius, Customer Service Expert, Author, and Consultant.

In an age of slacking dress codes, set a standard of service for your business that exceeds patients’ expectations. Establish a standard dress code for your pharmacists, pharmacy techs, and other staff. And, remember to keep the feel of your business in mind.

“Your dress code should reflect the personality of your culture,” DiJulius said. “Look at the icons of their industry: Starbucks, The Ritz-Carlton, Southwest Airlines, Chick-fil-A, and Apple. You know who works there and you get a certain feeling about their culture.”

Set your business apart from the independent pharmacy next door or the big box store down the block by establishing a dress code. It gives adds value to your business. And, pharmacy owners who promote their business’s value are more likely to thrive in the future healthcare environment.

The great debate: White coat or no white coat?

Since the late 19th century, healthcare providers have commonly worn a white coat.

While the white coat started as a way to maintain a sterile environment (dirt and grime easily show up on white) it has come to symbolize health care.

Today, the white coat represents the education and credentials that come with being a medical professional. Many pharmacy schools recognize the importance of the white coat as a symbol of the responsibility and pride of the pharmacy profession by holding white coat ceremonies. In actual practice, however, wearing the white coat is a hot debate in independent pharmacies today.

The white coat in practice

“I’ve struggled with whether we should wear the white coat or whether we shouldn’t,” Bartlett said.

Proponents of the white coat suggest that the white coat makes the pharmacist more easily identifiable from other staff.

Alberty agrees. “If you’re in a setting where you’re the only one wearing the white coat, it’s pretty easy for patients to figure out who they’re talking with,” he said.

At her pharmacy, Bartlett chooses to forgo the white coat because most of her patients already know her pharmacists well and don’t need that identifying factor. “I think by us being so approachable to our customers that they pretty much know us,” she said. “They call us by name almost 100 percent of the time.”

Alberty also chooses not to wear the white coat. But he makes sure to wear his nametag to identify himself as the pharmacist. However, the other pharmacists at D&H Drugstore, (except one) do choose to wear the white coat. “I think the white coat is mostly about personal preference,” Alberty said.

It’s worth noting, though, that the public has certain expectations from healthcare professionals and that includes seeing their healthcare providers wearing white coats.

According to a 2011 study published in the journal Pharmacy Practice that surveyed patients in independent and chain pharmacies in the Alabama area, patients overwhelmingly preferred pharmacists to wear white coats.

So, don’t let workwear get in the way of patient care. Think about what pharmacists wear at your independent pharmacy, what makes sense for your patient base, and keep it professional.

A Member-Owned Company Serving Independent Pharmacies

PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy-side of their business. Founded and owned by pharmacists, PBA Health serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, wholesaler contract negotiations, proprietary purchasing tools, and more.

An HDA member, PBA Health operates its own NABP-accredited secondary wholesaler with more than 6,000 SKUs, including brands, generics, narcotics CII-CV, cold-storage products, and over-the-counter (OTC) products — offering the lowest prices in the secondary market.

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Elements is written and produced by PBA Health, a buy-side solutions company.

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