Skip to main content
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
MD Education

Medical Student Dress Code and Scrub Suit Policy

Published research shows that patients prefer physicians wearing white coats and more formal attire over casual clothing and that this impacts domains including how knowledgeable, trustworthy, caring and approachable the physician appeared as well as how comfortable the physician made the patient feel. For this reason, Feinberg has the following requirement for classroom sessions:

  • Dress in routine morning lecture or in small group activity with no patient or standardized patient interaction in the first two years is informal. 
  • In a classroom environment where patients are present, students are required to wear their white coat with an ID badge.

Clinical Attire Guidelines

The following clinical attire guidelines reflect the requirements of our major affiliates (Lurie Children’s, NMH, Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, JBVA) in order for Feinberg students to rotate at these sites. These guidelines also are relevant for staff who are employed by the hospitals, and other learners, and are not unique to medical students.  Feinberg students should follow these guidelines in all settings where real or standardized patients are present, including but not limited to IP/ECMH sites, CEC skills sessions, patient interviews, M3/M4 clerkships, and focused clinical experiences.  Please note additional dress codes may be in effect at clinical sites.  If students become aware of additional dress code requirements at clinical sites, they should comply with them.   Requirements for Feinberg students in clinical settings:

  • Hair must be well groomed. Beards should be trimmed and neat.
  • No hats (with the exception of religious or cultural head coverings).
  • No T-shirts or sweatshirts. No bare midriff, sheer garments or halter/tank tops
  • No jeans, cargo pants, yoga pants/leggings or shorts.
  • Shoes must be closed toed to comply with OSHA requirements.
  • Do not wear cologne or perfume
  • Skirts must be an appropriate length for clinical care (not too short)
  • Many clinical sites require a necktie when seeing patients; please check with your clerkship directors/residents or preceptor/attending physician about this expectation
  • Cuts and abrasions should be covered with Tegaderm or similar water impervious material.
  • Universal Precautions should be followed with protective glasses and masks in any situation where exposure to body fluids is possible.   
  • Feinberg students will follow universal masking and other PPE guidelines as mandated by Northwestern Medicine or clinical affailiates.

Operating Room Attire 

Students must follow all specific OR policies at each site.  These policies are usually related to Department of Public Health (DPH) or other regulatory agencies and apply to all OR staff as well as to students.

  • All personnel entering restricted and semi-restricted areas of the OR and procedure rooms are to wear hospital-approved, hospital-issued, clean, hospital-laundered surgical scrub top and pants
  • All personal clothing (e.g. t-shirts) must be contained under surgical attire
  • Jewelry must come off before scrubbing. Earrings are not allowed in the Operating Room. 
  • Soiled surgical scrubs should be changed as soon as feasible.

General FSM Scrub Suit Guidelines  

  • Scrub suits are permitted only in select direct patient care areas. 
  • When outside patient care areas, students must wear their white coats as well. 
  • Scrub suits are to be changed daily and immediately when soiled. 
  • T-shirts should not extend below the scrub top. 
  • Students must follow each hospital’s policies regarding scrub suits  
  • Scrub suits should never be worn outside hospital buildings. 
  • Scrubs should be changed in appropriate changing location. 

Specific NMH Policy regarding scrub suits  

NMH has established the following policies regarding OR (jade green) scrubs.  These policies apply to all OR staff as well as students.

  • At NMH surgical scrubs (jade green) are restricted to the ORs.  Blue scrubs are used in areas such as the ED and ICU.  To comply with accreditation requirements, jade green scrubs must not be worn outside hospital buildings (defined as buildings connected to NMH by a bridge or tunnel). Surgical scrubs are never to be worn outside on the street. 
  • A closed, clean cover-up, such as a lab coat, must be worn when outside of the OR and inside the hospital (i.e. all public areas, elevators and when moving between different units). 
  • Non-surgical scrubs are not allowed in the ORs. 
  • Medical students, residents and faculty working in non-OR approved sites such as the ED, and ICUs may wear misty blue hospital issued scrubs
  • Misty blue hospital issued scrubs may be worn outside the hospital during the work day for example transitioning between office and hospital buildings. 
  • A clean lab coat should be worn over blue scrubs.  

Related LCME Standard 
3.5 Learning Environment/Professionalism 

Last Updated: 6/4/2020