MUNICH -- A cozy fire burns in the waiting room's fireplace. Theres a cowhide rug on the floor and antlers on the wall, along with a photograph of an imposing mountain peak. A woman wearing a lovely silk dirndl a traditional and somewhat revealing Bavarian dress walks in and asks what we would like to drink.
Is this part of some Alpine idyll? No. The fire place is really a flat screen, and were not in the mountains, were in Munich at the orthodontic practice of Marie-Catherine Klarkowski, where she and her staff wear dirndls instead of white smocks. The male staffers, of course, wear lederhosen.
Klarkowski first got the idea about two years ago to give her clinic called "Relax & Smile" an Alpine Bavarian makeover. Gradually, more and more authentic touches were added: wooden benches, the womens magazines in the waiting area were replaced by mountaineering magazines, and a receptacle containing fresh pretzels took up its place in the reception area. Patients sometimes got into the act, contributing items like cowhide-patterned mouse pads. At first, staffers only wore traditional clothing on holidays and during Oktoberfest. Now they don it every day.
The reason for this, says Klarkowski, 42, is that it relaxes and distracts patients so theyre not so focused on the real reason theyre here. It seems to be working. Klarkowski has significantly more patients now than she did before the redesign. "Apparently, some other Munich practices are now copying us.
Not all, however, are enchanted by the idea. On some Internet forums, people have taken issue with Relax & Smile, complaining among other things that theres something unhygienic about being treated in a medical context by dirndl-wearing women.
But Klarkowski points out that in her practice there is no drilling or operating on open wounds. The work instead consists of putting on, taking off and adjusting braces. Should some procedures cause a bit of bleeding, there are white medical smocks in the cupboard for her and her assistants to put on.
Klarkowski also points out that childrens doctors routinely work without white smocks so that they come across as less scary. And finally, she says, indicating the fine silk, extravagantly embroidered lilac dresses that she and her assistants are wearing: Not only do we all have several dirndls that we launder on a regular basis, but I for one feel more comfortable wearing a beautiful dress than a smock. The patients benefit from that too.
Read the full story in Germany by Lisa Sonnabend
*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations