Patients Associate Green Scrub Color With Surgeons Interview with:

Casey HribarFourth-year medical student University of North Carolina

Casey Hribar

Casey Hribar
Fourth-year medical student
University of North Carolina What is the background for this study?

Response: Several great pieces of literature already exist about patient perception of doctors wearing white coats, formal attire, business attire, and the like. But recently, scrubs are garnering favor, especially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While there has been some interest in what is worn over scrubs (jackets, vests, name tags, etc.), to our knowledge, there has not been any investigation into scrub color. Scrubs are a highly variable article of clothing, from fit, to pockets, pattern, and color, and it makes sense that these variations could have their own associated perceptions. Our study served as a way to open up the conversation around scrubs and the potential impact of their color on patients. What are the main findings?

Response:  Overall, we found that scrub color may serve as a potential identification tool for surgeons, with green being the most commonly chosen. When it came to specific character traits, blue scrubs were favored.

What’s most striking about our findings though was the relation between scrub color and negative characteristics. Black was most commonly chosen as the “least” of each trait (least skilled, trustworthy, etc.) when worn on both male and female providers. Several participants even reported that they felt black scrubs reminded them of “death” or a mortician’s uniform. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Of course, there is much more to the doctor-patient relationship than scrub color alone, however, it could be an easily modifiable factor that has implications on patient comfort and trust, and thus, treatment adherence and clinical outcomes. This may be especially important in time-limited settings like emergency rooms or ICUs where immediate visual cues are key.

Although this is only an introduction into the potential role of scrub color in patient care and does not definitively prove one color is “better” than another, it does look like color might matter. Given the large amount spent on scrubs (both personally and institutionally), further research into this topic may have implications on operational decision-making across a variety of clinical settings. What recommendations do you have for future research as a results of this study?

Response: Our efforts were narrow in scope and meant to test the waters to determine if a potential association might exist. Future directions would be best served expanding provider demographics (age, race, gender, etc.) and collecting additional patient/participant demographics for better relationship stratification. Investigation into other modifiable aspects of scrubs, such as fit, pockets, pattern, or additional colors, as well as provider perceptions of these factors, would be interesting as well.


Hribar CA, Chandran A, Piazza M, Quinsey CS. Association Between Patient Perception of Surgeons and Color of Scrub Attire. JAMA Surg. Published online January 11, 2023. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2022.5837

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Last Updated on January 13, 2023 by Marie Benz MD FAAD