Should Doctors and Nurses Wear Pink Stethoscopes?

Should doctors wear pink stethoscopes

What female professionals wear at work has always been a contentious issue. Pressure on women to look attractive yet professional can conflict with expression of personality.

Where do pink stethoscopes fit in? Are they too “girly”? Or “ditsy”? Or unprofessional?

In my first year as a medical student I bought my first stethoscope: a Littmann Classic II in Bubblegum pink.

I can’t tell you how happy I was with my new beautiful pink stethoscope. Proudly using it during clinical exercises. Practicing auscultation while admiring the pearly pink sheen of my tubes.

It wasn’t until I started getting comments about my pink stethoscope, that I began to consider whether the color was appropriate.

Comments like,

Wow pink is a brave choice!

or even

Are you going to keep using that after you graduate?

started to cast a cloud on my color choice. It was evident some felt a pink stethoscope was unprofessional. OK for a medical student – but not for a doctor or qualified health professional.

Why should a colour that characteristically represents femininity be considered unprofessional?

And why would nearly every stethoscope brand on the planet make at least one pink stethoscope? Littmann produces 5 different shades of pink stethoscopes: bubblegum pink, raspberry pink, rose pink, pearl pink.

littmann pink stethoscopes

Littmann aren’t the only ones. MDF Instruments produces 4 different shades of pink: fairy pink glitter, Cosmo Pink, Fuchsia, Raspberry pink, as well as rose gold metal chestpieces. This is in addition to a number of different stethoscope prints that contain pink.

MDF pink stethoscopes

Despite my own instinct, I succumbed to the pressure to look “more professional” and bought myself a plain stethoscope when I started working as a doctor. But a decade has passed since I bought that pink stethoscope, and I’m proudly wearing my pink stethoscope again.

Here’s why:

In a study conducted at the University of Hertfordshire, UK, hundreds of volunteers were given seconds to make snap judgments of women and asked to rate them on their confidence, success, trustworthiness, salary and flexibility.

The study concluded that women who dressed more feminine were consistently favored over women who didn’t. Those who dressed more lady-like, achieved more workplace respect and were considered more trustworthy.

Furthermore, studies on faces have also shown that more feminine faces were perceived as kinder and more trustworthy. This applied even if the individual being judged was a man: men with more feminine facial features were also considered more trustworthy.

What does this mean for doctors, nurses, and pink stethoscopes? The healthcare profession is one of compassion combined with specialist expertise. So it should be seen as a good thing if a pink stethoscope makes us appear more feminine. If the studies are right, wearing a pink stethoscope would have us perceived as more caring towards patients, and more trustworthy in our medical judgment.

So there you have it – I’ll continue to wear my beautiful pink stethoscope with pride. If anyone questions the “professionalism” of yours, you can quote the studies.

But ultimately, why should the color of my stethoscope be anyone else’s business? It’s my stethoscope.

Dr. Maria Knöbel
MBBS BSc (hons) ARCS

Dr. Maria has been blogging on the subjects of health, aesthetics, and medicine for 4 years. She works full-time in a busy London hospital.

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