Procedures and Guidelines

Dress/Appearance for Clinical Practice

Categories: appearance clinical dress Physical Therapy

Updated on:

Guidelines on Student Appearance/Dress for Clinical Practice Courses


  • Professional appearance and appropriate/functional apparel for a specific occupational situation is learned. A professional program has a responsibility to teach, monitor for, and ensure, the professional appearance of students when engaged in clinical education experiences and specific to diverse clinical settings.
  • Appearance of students in clinical facilities impacts on the reputation of the School of Rehabilitation Science and the profession of physical therapy.
  • The credibility assigned to the person, and how they are judged, respected and trusted by clients, other health professionals, media and the public, is directly related to appearance.
  • Hygiene and type of apparel has a direct impact on the safety of patients and staff, infection control and efficacy of treatment delivered.

General Statements

  1. The School of Rehabilitation Science guidelines are meant to guide the student as to common clinical facility dress policies and it is expected that students will adhere to these guidelines. Given the nature of certain clinical settings (i.e. greater infection control needs, a more relaxed atmosphere as in a pediatric rehabilitation facility), alternate dress policies may exist in various clinical units/clinics/facilities. The facility may require specific apparel for clinical settings with special needs (i.e. organ transplant unit, burn unit, psychiatric unit, ICU). It is the responsibility of the student to clarify the appropriate dress policy for each clinical placement with the Clinical Instructor.
  2. Professional appearance will be evaluated. A student may be asked to leave the clinical facility until he/she demonstrates compliance with this policy or the policy of the facility.
  3. Students are advised to refrain from making assumptions. If a staff member is wearing something different than usual policy, students should not assume it is appropriate. Best advice: “Always ask."
  4. Some facilities may specify that clinical apparel is not to be worn outside of the facility. Therefore, students should inquire with the clinical facility as to whether it is acceptable to wear clinical apparel to and from the facility.


  1. General Appearance - clothing shall be in good condition, wrinkle free and clean. Clothing shall provide adequate coverage so that abdomen, cleavage, upper buttock, upper thighs and shoulders are not exposed.  Underwear should not be visible either through clothing nor because outer clothing does not cover underwear adequately. Clothing with obvious printed slogans, logos or writing is not acceptable at any time.  
  2. Tops - in acute care settings tops should be short sleeved or sleeves must be able to be rolled up. Tops and sleeves must not be large and loose so as to not present an infection control issue. Tops may include vests and light weight cardigans over a shirt.
  3. Bottoms - generally, pants are preferred. They must not be of a “denim or jean” material or design. Sweatpants and yoga pants are typically not acceptable. 
  4. Footwear - Shoes must offer stability, traction and support for safe patient handling. Closed toed shoes must be worn.  In certain select settings, when infection control or staff and patient safety is not compromised, casual shoes without socks or stockings may be allowed.
  5. Jewellery - Patient and staff safety procedures dictate that jewellery/accessories not present the potential for injury, such as raised rings, large buckles, dangling earrings or necklaces, bracelets, watches, scarves and ties. If jewellery is worn it must be small, flat and easily cleaned.  Facial piercings should be minimized to a stud so that patients cannot inadvertently grab it.  Ear lobe expanders/spacers/plugs/tunnels could become a hazard if too large.
  6. Personal Hygiene - is of primary importance at all times. Disheveled, unkempt or unclean appearance is not acceptable.  Perfumed scents are not allowed in most facilities.
  7. Hair - is to be neat in appearance. Long hair should be worn in such a way as to not interfere with patient treatment, pose an infection control risk or obscure vision. Beards may not be started during clinical placements.
  8. Fingernails - most facilities do not allow nail polish or artificial nails of any sort. Fingernails must be trimmed and kept clean.
  10. Tattoos - exposed tattoos shall not be offensive, violent, racist or sexual in nature. The unit/clinic manager has the discretion to decide what is appropriate on a case by case basis. Students must be aware that all/any tattoos may need to be covered.

These Guidelines have been developed through consultation with: practicing physical therapists; clinical facility/clinic managers; and School of Rehabilitation Science students and faculty members.