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Are they really white coats if they never stay white?

June 25, 2009
Dr Steel looks pretty menacing in his white coat, dont you think?

Dr Steel looks pretty menacing in his white coat, don't you think?

White coats are tradition. They protect our clothes from gross splashes, and give us pockets to store our gadgets and books.

I don’t entirely like the idea of wearing them, because they get dirty easily, the long sleeves are in the way of ‘doing stuff’ (even washing your hands isn’t as thorough as it would be with short sleeves), and though I feel some divide between patient and doctor is appropriate, I’m not sure the menacing coat is the way to show it. My short white coats of medical student days have gone in the trash; the ink and soy sauce stains that I once scrubbed until my hands bled are a thing of the past.

My Residency program will be providing me with a long white coat, and I’ll wear it with a mixture of pride and quiet resentment, but I’ll probably look to some sort of less germ-harbouring, slightly more fashionable and less scary alternative down the road when I get to call the shots.

Anyway, this ramble was inspired by this article: Why do doctors wear white coats?: Because they say “science” The AMA has decided to put the future of white coats to a panel. These germy vectors may instill confidence and trust into the hearts of patients, but surely there is a better way.

EDIT: Oh, Number Needed to Treat beat me to this. Read their great commentary!

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