This week I had what we call practical, or simulation examinations in one of my courses. It's where I have a simulated patient (someone who pretends to have a certain diagnosis) that the students have to perform some clinical skill with. Included in the scoring of the exam are elements such as the performance of the actual clinical skill(s), how well the student explains what they are doing to their "patient", and if they adhere to a professional dress code, among others.
The dress code includes basic rules such as no torn, dirty, or excessively wrinkled clothing, no jeans, no shorts, and no skirts or dresses shorter than 2 inches above the knee as well as what we call the "4 B's". The 4 B's stand for bellies, backs, butts, and boobs, or the parts of the body that we require remain covered by clothing, including while the student is reaching both arms overhead, bending over, or leaning forward. If it seems odd to you that we have to actually tell students that exposing their bellies, backs, butts, and boobs is inappropriate, you are probably old like me :p
We try to deal with dress code issues as a part of this exam because our male faculty are not comfortable commenting on the dress of our female students (we don't have dress code violations with male students, well, except once a male student wore a t-shirt with a mostly nude woman on it from one of the ubiquitous strip clubs found in college towns). So, it falls to the female faculty to address. It's not exactly my favorite thing to do either, but I understand how the already sensitive subject could be even more difficult for a male to approach with a female student.
I had three incidences of dress code violation this time. One occurred when a student raised her arms overhead and exposed about 2 inches of "belly" between the bottom of her shirt and the top of her low rise pants, and the other two involved "boobs".
I got very different reactions from the students regarding the "boob" incidences. The first student, a young woman who is quite well endowed, didn't have a dress code violation during the exam, but I wanted to, um, congratulate her on her efforts toward that end, and encourage her to continue.
Learner: You did a great job with the dress code today. It was a good idea to wear that tank top with a higher neck line under your top.
Student 1: Yeah, I wanted to make sure I was covered.
Learner: Good. There are some times you don't do as well with the dress code though.
Student 1: I know, it's not easy for me (said with chagrin).
Learner: I understand that it isn't really fair in some ways because there are a lot of tops the other girls in your class could wear without it being an issue, that if you wore would not work. I mean, you have the boobs you have, you need to find some ways to deal with it. Trust me, you won't want to be showing that much cleavage in a clinical setting. Your tank top/camisole thingy worked well for you today, that seems to be a good option for you.
Student 1: Thank you, I'll have to get some more. I know what you mean, when I did my (clinical rotation) some patients made some comments.
Learner: Oh, that's not good.
Student 1: I know, I don't want that to be the focus. I know I need to do better and I will.
The other student, who is more average sized, was wearing a top that was so low cut that even when she was standing up straight you could see way too much cleavage and when she bent forward you could clearly see her bra. She also has a tendency to dress like she is going out to a club instead of class, so I needed to address the dress code in general with her as well.
Learner: There's a problem with your top (I put my hand on my sweater to indicate the neckline)
Student 2: I thought this was a nice top.
Learner: It's too low cut. When you bent forward I could see your bra.
Student 2: I have a tank top on underneath.
Learner: Well, I couldn't see the tank top, I saw your bra.
Student 2: [eye roll]
Learner: A tank top underneath is a good idea, but the neckline needs to be higher than the neckline of the top to help.
Student 2: Yeah, okay [arms crossed]
Learner: It has also been noticed that you are pushing the limits of the dress code in class.
Student 2: [another eye roll]
Learner: Some of your shirts seem better suited to a club than a class room or clinic, like that off the shoulder top you had on last week.
Student 2: Okay [looking away from me]
Learner: It's important to project a competent professional image to your patients.
Student 2: I know.
I got the impression that she thinks I am over reacting and that it is just a matter of changing styles, not professionalism or appropriate modesty. I have a feeling she is going to complain about me. Oh well. It won't be the first time.
* I debated about whether or not to title this post "Boobs", but then I started to wonder... what would happen if I did? Would I get more hits? ( I need to get over this "everything is an experiment" way of thinking.) I feel a little cheap...