Friday, May 01, 2009

White Coats - Yay or Nay?

I am somewhat curious what people think about doctors wearing white coats. I have sort of conflicted emotions about my white coat. I haven't even worn a white coat in several months, although wearing a coat in clinic today I was reminded about their good qualities.

1. Pockets - I can carry more things than I could hold in my hands.
2. The hospital and clinic are ALWAYS cold. A white coat is a light-weight jacket and can keep me warm.
3. They make me look more doctorly. I often wonder if I would be called "nurse" less if I wore my white coat more. (Not that I really mind being called nurse - I love nurses. Especially the ones I'm related to.)

On the other hand, here are what I consider to be the negatives:
1. Wearing one often gives me a sore neck - see #1 above. This is probably mostly a problem only I have, since my disorganization problem even leaks over into the white coat and the pockets slowly become like a black hole of papers, reference guides, and hemoccult developer.
2. They harbor germs. And lots of them. I tried to switch them out once a week, but honestly even when I wore them regularly, that didn't always happen.
3. I might be wearing a really cute outfit (it does happen occasionally), and the white coat is just going to cover it up.

And of course, there is the Murphy's Law of White coats:
As soon as you wear a clean or new white coat to work, within minutes you are going to spill coffee, yogurt, or salad dressing on it or get splattered with blood. (This also holds true for when I wear a nice-looking shirt or if I've just washed my khaki pants.)

So any thoughts out there? Should I wear my white coat more? What do patients expect?

3 comments:

Melanie said...

Your negative #3 is my favorite reason Andrew has to wear his in clinic - it means I don't have to iron well!

Sorry, that's all I got.

Ed Eubanks said...

Aubrey,

I think the germs/cleanliness negative(s) are the biggest marks against. Of course, isn't that true of shoes, watches, and other things that NEVER get washed? (when my sister, who is a PT, worked in a hospital, she always had a pair of shoes that she never wore anywhere else for this reason-- but of course, they were still germy).

As for carrying things (and the weight issue): this is one reason why I've never liked a photographer's vest when out shooting. The weight makes my neck and shoulders hurt. I find the same with a fishing vest. I've finally had to conclude that this wasn't an option for me-- and it may be that you would simply need to mitigate how much stuff you stick on the pockets. (Maybe a personal rule that only writing instruments, a prescription pad, and a small pack of tissues are allowed.) But-- if you do this regularly, then you get to the point that you ALWAYS know where those things are, because you habitually put them there.

The biggest reason to commend it, in my opinion, is that it clearly identifies you as the doctor. This is sort of like wearing a clerical collar as a pastor, or a judicial robe as a judge. Everyone knows by default who you are and why you are there. I find this a very compelling reason to wear a clerical collar, and would think you would find it a compelling reason to wear a white coat.

Just my two shekels...

Ken Shomo said...

I think Ed is onto something. You should wear the white coat, and Jeff should wear a clerical robe. All the time. No matter who has the cuter outfit.