Facts About Physical Therapy Uniforms

There are a number of things about physical therapy uniforms that you may be interested in learning before you embark on your new career. A good first impression is important for any newcomer to a job, so the way that you dress is essential. Make sure that you find out what you will have to wear from your employer before showing up for your first day of work.

Basic Dress Requirements For Physical Therapists

Physical therapy uniforms can differ significantly according to the work place, so it is essential that you find out exactly what your employer expects you to wear before you arrive for the first day of work. However there are a few basic requirements that you will almost definitely have to adhere to if you are unable to get hold of this information. In addition, these are clothing requirements that you can keep in mind in some of the more relaxed work places where you are effectively allowed to choose what you wear.


As a physical therapist the clothes that you wear need to be comfortable. This is because the job that you do involves a great deal of physical exertion and movement on a daily basis, so the uniform you wear must not be restrictive. The more comfortable you feel, the easier your job will be. In cases where your uniform is not provided by the employer and you must purchase it yourself, make sure that you also invest in sensible and comfortable shoes. Often there is more freedom in terms of what footwear you are allowed to wear, but that does not mean that you should wear stilettos. Be sensible. If you choose your own clothing go for something that is loose rather than tight as this will allow you to move more freely, and will be more appropriate for your workplace.


As mentioned in the previous section physical therapists have to do a lot of moving on a daily basis. The type of movement they need to do includes:

  • Standing
  • Sitting
  • Squatting
  • Bending

physical therapy uniformAs you can see, this means that you must have slightly loose clothes for your entire body. If your pants are too tight you will struggle to bend down or squat. In your job you may have to make these movements quickly, and the tighter your clothes are the harder you will find it is to respond appropriately in the situation that you are presented with. Your personal appearance is far from being the important factor in this regard. You need to wear the clothes that will allow you to best serve your patients as quickly as possible.


That being said, the clothes you wear have to be loose, but still make you look like a professional. This is sometimes not the easiest thing to achieve. However there is a code or a list of things that you should not wear at any time, even if you are a physical therapy student or if you are not working directly with patients in a health care setting. The things that you should avoid wearing at all costs include:

  • Jeans
  • Sweatpants
  • Sweatshirts
  • T-shirts
  • Hats

If you are in a situation where you are allowed to choose your own clothes not that you ‘freedom of choice’ does not extend to including the above mentioned items. In terms of color you will find that people see you in a more professional light if you wear dark or understated colors.


Previously in this article it was mentioned that loose clothes are better. However there is a limit. Although your clothes should be loose enough to allow you to move freely they should not be billowy enough to jeopardize your patient’s or your own safety. Billowy clothing puts you in danger of falling over your own feet. If the clothing get in the way of your hands it may interfere with your grip and you may drop the patient. In addition patients frequently need to hang onto their physical therapist when they are walking. If a patient makes a sudden grab for you because they feel unstable on their feet, billowy clothing could cause them to fall if they grab onto that instead of onto your arm. Clothing can have a huge impact in terms of safety, something which many students of the discipline do not seem to realize.

Physical Therapy Uniforms In Different Settings

Most official physical therapy uniforms will include the above factors. In different settings you may be required to wear subtly or completely different uniforms in order to adhere to the dress code and dress policies of the institute. The dress code tends to be slightly different in an acute care setting than in an outpatient rehabilitation setting, for example, and you would not wear the same clothes in pediatric rehab as you would in an administrative to home health care setting. The uniform you will wear depends to a large degree on where exactly you are going to end up working as a physical therapist.

Acute Care (Hospital)

The first uniform that we shall consider is that which is most frequently used in the acute care setting. Acute care most frequently occurs in a hospital. If you are planning to be a physical therapist in a hospital setting there are standards that you will probably have to adhere to in terms of your physical therapy uniform.

In this setting the uniform of the physical therapist most frequently consists of scrubs, which are easy to wash out and durable. They meet the basic requirements in that they allow you to move freely. You should keep an extra pair around in case yours get dirty, which is a very likely scenario.

Protective Equipment
In some cases you may be required to work with patients that have an active infection or disease. In this case you may wear protective layering or a mask.

Comfortable shoes are an obvious and necessary requirement.

Outpatient Rehabilitation

In the outpatient rehabilitation setting you will be expected, generally speaking, to dress more formally. In other words scrubs are unlikely to be a requirement for physical therapists working in this setting. In this setting you could wear:

  • Slacks
  • Dress shirts
  • A tie
  • Lab coat

As with everything else discussed so far, this depends largely on what your employer expects you to wear. If you are self-employed you have freedom, but remember that people like to see a private physical therapist who dresses in a professional manner rather than in a T-shirt and casual jeans. On the other end of the scale you should not dress so formally that you come across as unapproachable.

Home Health Physical Therapy

Physical therapists that work in the homes of their patients need to be comfortable while still appearing professional and should therefore wear:

  • Scrubs, or
  • Khakis and polo-type shirts

This is to make movement from location to location easier for you. In addition temperatures can vary from location to location so be prepared to adapt to these changes in temperature accordingly.

Pediatric Rehab

If you are working in pediatric rehab it means that you are working a lot with children. This is why it is necessary that you wear scrubs. Children generally find scrubs to be far less frightening than the formal clothes that you would wear in an outpatient setting. If the child is at his or her ease then it is easier for you to work with him or her. Often t is a good idea to wear scrubs that have cartoon characters on them or that are brightly colored as this makes you seem friendlier in the child’s eyes.

Again comfortable shoes are an important requirement. However an additional suggestion is that you wear slip on shoes that are easy to take off. This is because working with children often requires you to be on the floor or at ground level.


As an administrator you have a more formal role. As a result of this you will be expected to dress at a very formal level. You could wear either:

  • A business suit, or
  • Khakis and a sport coat

The first option is far more formal than the second. The one which you end up wearing depends on the dress code of the institute where you will be working as a physical therapist.

There are a number of dimensions to consider when looking into the question of physical therapy uniforms, but these are fairly standard aspects to consider. And, again, your employer will most likely inform you of what you are required to wear. Your employer may also be the one that provides you with the uniform in the first places. Many healthcare institutions have a deal with a specific tailor that provides all of the uniforms for its health care staff, so you will be informed of that when you join the company. If you are in doubt about what to wear, stick to the basic principles mentioned above.

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