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March 26, 2001

New dress code adopted

By Eric Rangus


Seeing an opportunity to compose a full, coherent code for its thousands of employees, Emory Hospitals rolled out a new dress policy earlier this year, and—so far—the plan has moved along quite fashionably.

“We were looking for a program that would provide consistency, character and confidence,” said Larry Hodges, assistant administrator for Human Resources at Emory Hospitals.

The consistency comes from implementing a single policy across Emory Hospitals and Wesley Woods (around 5,000 employees). “Character [reflects] who we are” as employees, Hodges said. And confidence is what patients and their families will feel when they see hospital employees who look as professional as they act, he continued.

“The personal appearance of employees contributes significantly toward the community’s impression of the hospitals,” the policy reads, “and has significant impact on the patient’s and customer’s satisfaction. Appropriate employee appearance is necessary to create an environment of caring and clinical excellence.”

“What we look like is important to how patients perceive care,” said Jennifer Miller, public relations manager for Emory Hospitals.

Hodges said he learned through a customer service survey that the hospitals had opportunities to improve how employees dealt with customers—as well as the way employees looked. While there were no overt problems before, Hodges said, the hospitals also did not have any specific codes for dress. The time had come to put something together.

Hodges, who authored the policy, began the effort a year ago, first researching guidelines at other hospitals. He used focus groups to test his plan, then took the draft that come out of those focus groups to department directors and to the senior administration team.

“We spent a lot of time talking to people,” Hodges said.

The policy took effect Jan. 1 but wasn’t fully enforced until Feb. 12. The response, according to Hodges, has been very positive, and the few questions that have arisen were clarified quickly and informally.

Common sense is perhaps the policy’s overriding guide. It outlines proper hair color and style, clothing, shoes, jewelry and fingernails, among other things.

But not all employees are created equal. Management and business employees, for instance, may not wear athletic shoes, while a nurse may since she or he might need them for comfort and speed.

The code is hardly Draconian, either. Nodding to current fashion realities, the policy allows for small, unobtrusive tattoos to be visible, but restricts large tattoos or those that could be considered offensive or insulting.

The policy also restricts body piercings to the ears, which are limited to two earrings per ear.

For employees in support, clinical and technical services (who wear uniforms) the policy has minimal effect.

If an employee’s dress conflicts with the policy, he or she may be sent home and/or be subject to disciplinary action. Hodges said, though, this has not happened.

If employees have any questions about what is acceptable dress, they are instructed to contact their supervisor or department director.


Back to Emory Report March 26, 2001