Dressing for Work and Weather Doesn’t Mean Giving Up Functionality, Comfort and Style

January 2022 – The Journal of Healthcare Contracting

by Deanna Leonard, M.B.A.

Wherever your healthcare facility is located, the seasonal changes occurring now are likely the most distinct. It’s necessary for some to prepare for extreme events like blizzards, ice storms and dense fog; others just have to put on a light layer heading to or from their jobs. Whatever the weather throws at us, healthcare workers want uniform apparel that continues to feel and look good while being highly functional.

What Not to Wear

With apologies to the long-running TLC series What Not to Wear, certain garments and fabrics don’t work in a healthcare setting. As the weather gets cooler or colder, depending on your location, your employees may be tempted to add their own layer to keep warm on the job. But studies have shown that high-pile fleece is more likely to carry bacteria or contaminate patients. Also, it’s important to avoid bulky clothing; your employees’ apparel should never restrict their ability to provide top-notch care.

Healthcare Workers Want Functionality

Like all of us, healthcare employees have individual preferences when it comes to their work apparel. However, we’ve seen an increase in requests for performance fabrics for healthcare settings, looking at the trends. Athletic fabrics with low-pile, french terry, or modern heat regulation have gained popularity. Most importantly, the uniform apparel fabrics must be protective yet breathable. Going from chilly to sweaty and back again does not serve your care staff well and can be distracting.

Like a runner who wants a secure spot for their car keys or mobile phone, your employees want their seasonable apparel to make it easier to do their jobs. From the emergency department to the bedside to the physician’s office, some prefer zippered clothing, others prefer snaps, but it’s all about multi-use pockets. Accessing the tools they need for the job makes it easier for them to face whatever comes their way efficiently.

Speaking of the ED, it’s the part of your facility most exposed to the elements. We’ve found that most emergency department employees prefer layering options. These can include a long-sleeved wicking performance tee, a scrub top or jacket, and a performance vest or jacket. All should be made of fabrics that adhere to safety standards, fit comfortably but not tightly, come in multiple styles and colors (particularly for facilities that color-code uniform apparel by role) and can be easily laundered. 

Many Ways to Say “Thank You”

People working in healthcare have endured nearly two years of unimaginable working conditions. From trying to keep themselves safe from COVID-19 to urgently treating the waves of seriously ill virus sufferers, they have been pushed to the extreme both physically and mentally. As a result, many facilities have experienced high employee turnover. If you haven’t already, it’s time to do anything you can to show appreciation to your employees — such as increasing your professional healthcare apparel offerings. No matter the weather, being comfortable will be a bright spot in yet another winter of unknowns. That is the least we owe these dedicated professionals!

Deanna Leonard is Vice President and General Manager – Professional Healthcare Apparel Encompass Group, LLC.

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