A consistent veterinary uniform policy gives your practice professionalism and credibility. Here’s how to make sure you and your staff are on point. By Rachel Smith
A big part of running a veterinary practice is creating a brand clients can identify and connect with—and ideally, one that’s dependable and professional.
“Who would you trust to do a complicated orthopaedic procedure on your pet? A vet in casual jeans and sneakers, or a vet in well-ironed professional attire: business pants and collared shirt with their name and logo embroidered onto it? First impressions count so uniforms really matter,” says veterinarian Dr Claire Stevens (@theinstapetvet).
Danielle Bliim, nursing manager at SASH Vets, Central Coast, agrees. “A bit of dog hair here and there is acceptable, but unhemmed uniforms or those that are ill-fitting or stained show there’s a ‘no care’ attitude at that practice. And consistency is key.”
Uniform policy: do you have one?
If you’re allowing staff to wear mixed scrubs of different colours and styles, oversized scrubs that look like pyjamas, or garish patterns, your practice could do with a more consistent uniform policy, suggests Dr Stevens.
She suggests reception staff who don’t have a nursing role are in a professional, branded corporate blouse, and uniforms for nurses and vets should be in colours consistent with the medical professional, such as blue or teal, with scrubs for invasive surgeries. “I believe nurses and vets should have different uniforms, even if it’s just the colour. I’m a young looking vet, and a few times I have been asked, ‘When will the vet be joining us?’”
Bliim adds that colour-coding uniforms for different departments can also be helpful markers for pet owners. “You may have vets in scrubs of a certain colour, while nurses and animal attendants are different again. At SASH we have different colours depending on the department: medicine is blue, surgery is pink, oncology is purple (the nationally recognised colour for chemotherapy), and ophthalmology is green.”
What’s new in fabrics?
The trend for blue scrubs is changing thanks to a host of new, hi-tech fabrics designed for added comfort, durability and resistance to fur, says Denise Cutajar of Medeleq Pty Ltd. “Materials have evolved over the past year and a half and the new uniforms available now are very low maintenance, with a small percentage of spandex and stretch in them so they’re shaped to fit your figure and move with the body. The new materials coming out are also a lot more professional in appearance.”
“A bit of dog hair is acceptable but unhemmed uniforms or those that are ill-fitting show there’s a ‘no care’ attitude.”—Danielle Bliim, nursing manager, SASH Vets
The Cherokee brand Medeleq sells has several collections that are particularly popular with veterinary clinics, thanks to soft stretchy fabrics and moisture-wicking technology that help wearers stay cooler. “The Revolution collection offers a really modern look, with durable but soft fabrics and a two-way stretch that doesn’t shrink, fade or usually need ironing,” says Cutajar. “Another collection we’re often selling to veterinary practices is the Luxe range, which has flattering styles and durable low-care fabrics.”
Should you have your logo and the names of staff embroidered on their uniform? Of course it depends on your budget, but it can be a nice touch in creating a more approachable vibe at your clinic, says Cutajar. “Doing this for staff gives them a sense of belonging [to the practice], and for clients, knowing staff by name can help them build up a rapport with that person and feel more connected to the practice.”
Colours versus prints
A quick Google search for vet uniforms pops up a lot of animal print. Should you go there? Dr Stevens says they can work for events like a fun run, RSPCA walk or puppy pre-school class. “But I do think novelty prints should be avoided in a clinical setting,” she explains. “We’re performing serious procedures such as CPR and euthanasias, and so bright pink scrubs with love hearts and bunny rabbits are inappropriate in my opinion.”
Cutajar, however, believes that a more casual print may help break down barriers between vet staff and clients, especially more vulnerable pet owners. “If an owner wants to open up and cry their heart out and they feel the vet or nurse is a bit more approachable because of how they’re dressed, that’s a good thing.”
Making uniforms compulsory
For a credible, cohesive brand strategy, it’s important to make sure all staff are on board with the uniform policy. One mistake vet practices often make is not outlining the policy in detail with staff—and also not consistently upholding those policies, says Dr Stevens.
“Problems can arise when you have to address the self-presentation of a staff member and they feel unfairly targeted. After a particular experience with a staff member in my practice, I’ve always made sure that uniform policies were clear to all staff from the first day of employment and this standard is consistently maintained,” she explains.
At SASH, the uniform policy is made by owners and managers—with input from staff, says Bliim. “They have to wear it too, after all! But we have uniforms for a reason and expect the staff to wear them. There isn’t any point of having matching uniforms if they are bleach-stained, or the staffer is wearing a holey sloppy joe over the top or has their lunch spilt down the front. Consistency in the uniform reflects the standard of the whole hospital.”