There is a very difficult decision that all healthcare practices need to make, especially when it experiences growth. Some people will embrace this decision and some people may rebel against it. In my professional opinion, if it is done right, this decision could transform the way your patients look at your practice.
So what is the big decision that needs to be made? It has nothing to do with electronic medical records or other technology, but rather implementing a practice uniform and unifying the appearance of your employees. This is not necessarily an easy transition to make, as for some people expressing their personal style means more to them than their job.
If you are one of those practices that does not have uniforms, here are 5 things to consider that may make your decision go from on the fence, to team branding.
- Branding and Advertising
Repetition is key when it comes to branding. Just because a patient has come to your practice before doesn’t mean that they will remember the name of your practice or logo. Here is an example of how this could affect your branding and marketing.Mrs. Smith makes an appointment with Dr. Jones for a knee injury. She had her injury taken care and left the practice feeling satisfied. A couple months later the practice Dr. Jones works at advertises a new service line. Because the practice name and logo was never reinforced when she visited Dr. Jones, she never associated that advertisement and new service line with the positive experience she had. If Mrs. Smith looked at the name and logo on employee’s uniforms every time she visited the practice, the practices brand would be what she remembered and not just the doctor’s name.
- Building Trust
Harris Interactive Polling and J.D.Power & Associates in the UK have research studies indicating that customers are more likely to trust an employee in work uniforms as opposed to workers in regular clothing. Points Group recently conducted a study on the brand attributes major orthopedic practices use in the NY/NJ area. At the conclusion of this study there was one brand attribute that was always present: trust.When identifying brand attributes for your practice, its not enough to just say what you want them to be, but come up with ways in which you can make people feel these brand attributes. By wearing a uniform it should communicate to a patient that they can trust to go to any employee wearing that uniform and they will be approachable and knowledgeable.
- Increase Productivity
Research has shown that when employees where a uniform along with a name badge they feel a sense of pride and responsibility to their company. If you implement a uniform and this is not the case for some employees, then you may have to rethink the employee as opposed to the uniform policy. In addition, the less time you have to send employees home to change inappropriate clothing, the more productive work can be done.
Uniforms also unite employees. Think about a sports team. As soon as a player puts on their uniform they have to act, think and move like a team. The better your team works together, the more productive the practice becomes.
- Improve Security
This is particularly true when it comes to large healthcare practices. If you have segmented departments there may be some people who have very little interaction with each other throughout the day or may not know if someone new has been hired. Avoid patients or other people wandering into places of the building that they do not belong. Self-policing is much easier to do when an employee vs. outsider is easily distinguished.
- Save Money
Whether the company is picking up the tab for all uniforms, providing employees with a couple of pieces, or implementing a uniform allowance, will ultimately result in saving employees money. In addition, most uniforms are a hardier material and can withstand extensive washing much better then regular clothing.
If you are only are only providing your employees with a couple of uniform pieces when they first get hired, consider giving uniform items for different occasions. Birthdays, work anniversaries and holidays are a great time to do this.
Taking the next steps
If you are now convinced that your practice needs to make this transition, here are a few tips for the next steps to take.
- Determine the types of uniforms you would like to explore: Should everyone wear the same thing or should administration wear business uniforms and nurses wear branded scrubs. Identify this first before you look into uniform companies as the options can become very overwhelming.
- Find the right uniform provider: Find a company that will work with you and see if you can order samples so you can feel the material and see the quality of clothing. Also discuss what the best branding options should be (embroider, heat press or branded name tags). It may be best to go with a small local company so you can order items as you go along.
- Get your employees involved: When introducing uniforms to your employees, use the points presented above to help them understand the importance. You can even get them involved when picking out the pieces. However, always remember it is very hard to make everyone happy. Do what is best for the company and do not change your decision because one disgruntled employee is louder than the rest.
- Strictly police the uniforms: Just because guidelines are put into place does not mean people will always wear the uniforms properly. If you do not instill strict rules from the beginning and continually reinforce them, you will end up with sloppy looking employees representing your brand.
If you are interested in implementing uniforms, Points Group can help you get started!