Jobs Applied: Impute

physical therapy browdering

Have you ever noticed that the packaging for Apple products is simply beautiful?  I hate to throw these things away – its obvious great attention and time goes into each one.  Steve Jobs personally spent time on the design of the packaging for the iPhone, believing that it set the tone for the experience.  He put his own stamp onto every facet of the product so that there was intention behind every aspect of it.

“They ‘do’ judge a book by its cover.”  -Steve Jobs


Everybody utilizes first impressions to make judgements.  Patients ascribe (or ‘impute’) characteristics to their therapist based on the packaging.  Can we intentionally design the patient’s first impression to create confidence that we can solve their problem?  I suggest that how we appear and how we dress plays a role in patient confidence, and thus in our ultimate outcome with that patient.

How do we want to be perceived?  I think patient’s for the most part don’t really know where to put us in the hierarchy of healthcare professionals.  What style of dress gives the best impression?  Is it different for different people?  There has been a little bit of research in this area, but nothing all that definitive and it seems obvious to me that setting makes a difference.  Interestingly, this research did not include the style I would choose for men in outpatient settings (dress shirt no tie).

‘Scrubs’    – I loved that show. Have you washed those recently?









‘The Coach’   – Are physical therapists like really smart personal trainers? Hey – P.T. – the initials are the same!










‘The Golfer’  – Are physical therapists like athletic trainers? I had one of those in high school.

Physical-Therapist polo


‘Business Casual’     – Nice shirt! Is that stain from massage lotion?



‘The Coat and Tie’    – Did you just come from the bank?  Is that tie uncomfortable?







’The White Coat’    –  Are physical therapists like physicians?











What kind of ‘packaging’ sends the best message in your opinion?  I’d love to discuss it with you below and we’ll be #browdering on twitter as well.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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10 thoughts on “Jobs Applied: Impute

  1. Oh how I preach this when I teach at PT schools and during my Con-Ed courses. It’s not just about the clinic! When you work in an admin role in your hospital/clinic and need to attend administrative settings, dress the part! Walking into your VP’s office in scrubs or a track warm up suit take you down on the credibility scale.
    When you attend meetings or conferences go in business attire. Surely you recognize that one of the most important parts of attending is to network. This is especially important at multi-disciplinary or international conferences. You are the face of your profession and the impression that you leave creates a lasting impact.
    We can call ourselves whatever we want by virtue of letters after our names but until we see ourselves and hold ourselves out as professionals we won’t gain the professional respect of others. You have to dress the part.

    • Hi Nancy, the pool definitely adds an element to the discussion, doesn’t it! Being a profession that climbs around on tables, pulls on legs, gets in pools adds an element of difficulty to this question that might seem easy on the surface.

  2. In the clinic I am most comfortable in dress pants and a dress shirt-so business casual I suppose. Maybe a school polo and khakis on Friday (since I work for the university)-but no tennis shoes!! Many of the other therapists here wear tennis shoes with slacks (????) which really takes away from the professionalism aspect in my mind. For teaching or meetings I am likely to dress up a bit more-I also dress up more when going to speak to physicians or speak at Grand Rounds to residents (yes they let therapists do that here so I am trying to brainwash the new docs one at a time!). Interestingly, dress in general is fairly casual here (Midwest college town) so I am almost always dressed up more than the family practice physicians in my building (about the same as the OBs and the orthopods are a mixed bag). Wait, why am I commenting? You were my most influential mentor so I likely got all my ideas about packaging from you in the first place!!

    • Ha! Thanks for that Jenn – I love that you’ve carried that lesson forward. I think a very wise way to increase our influence over patients is to step it up a notch… slacks instead of khakis, dress shoes instead of tennis shoes.. I draw the line at a tie because it starts getting in the way. If a big portion of our effectiveness is impacted by the patient’s confidence in us (and it does)… this stuff matters.

  3. Shoot me now… jeans… I prefer to be comfortable and enjoy jeans… and hoodies… and sweaters… and sandals… and hiking boots. My attire: very casual and comfortable. I also tend to think, the attitude of casual actually creates a relationship where people tell me things that I learn weren’t mentioned to other medical professionals.

    People judge all sorts of things – your attire, your size, your smile, your eyes, your body, your mannerisms, your ability to speak. I have complete confidence that just spending 15 minutes with me I create an experience that is memorable. I focus on truly making them feel that for the moments of time they are with me, they are with me and nothing else in the world matters to me except them. No attire in the world can create that feeling.

    I honestly don’t fear any first impression by any patient because I know I can deliver the authentic, genuine me in a way that 85-90% of the time connects with each and every one of them.

    I know most will disagree with my thoughts, but it’s worked for me for years – no reason to change to accommodate especially when I own my own clinic and have to pay my own bills. I’ve already assumed the full risk of being very casual and comfortable and for some reason, it works for me.

    Granted, I promise you, tomorrow when I meet legislators, I’ll play the attire game and dress in a manner all of you will approve. 😉 (I do know that there are times I have to appropriately represent.)

    • Well said Selena, and certainly a benefit that comes with the autonomy of owning your practice! So to play with this idea a bit – what if you hired a ‘new professional’ who appropriately copied your example… and it didn’t work for them. Would you ‘up your game’ to model for them, or would that be a hiring ‘must’ for you… the ability to shine through what might be a less professional first impression?

      • The folks I have hired… attire doesn’t play a role, generally. I don’t want to see low backs, butt cracks or tattoos in sexy locations. What I hire for: the Fred Factor; personality; humility; the ability to engage in a conversation; and the ability to self-reflect – along with the ability to be a thinker & change on a dime when circumstances require change with the appearance of confidence & ease. Resumes can look all wonderful and nice with all sorts of alphabet soup, without what I really like in partners, there is no partnership.