Dietitians don’t have to wear white coats

Kailey Carman, research coordinator with UF/IFAS, at the Nutrition Clinical Lab in the Food Science and Human Nutrition building on campus.

When you see your physician in a white coat, chances are you might think he or she is smarter, more confident and perhaps even exudes a compassionate bedside manner.

But what about dietitians? Do they need a white coat or scrubs to be perceived as credible?

New research from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences shows patients and clients see no difference in competence when their dietitian wears a white coat.

Students in a master’s program in food science and human nutrition at the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences wanted to know whether wearing a white coat increased dietitians’ credibility.

“Professionalism of your healthcare provider is important because it encompasses being empathetic, competent, approachable, credible, organized, effective, professional and confident,” said Bobbi Langkamp-Henken, a UF/IFAS professor of food science and human nutrition and faculty adviser for the newly published, student-driven study in the journal Topics in Clinical Nutrition. “The fact that we found that perceived professionalism of a dietitian is not related to attire means that the dietitian may be seen as equally effective in professional attire or scrubs with or without a white coat.”

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