In the UK, the National Health Services banned long-sleeved, white coats. In the Mayo Clinic, doctors are not allowed to wear them either. Instead, doctors wear business attire.
The reason for ditching the coats is for patients’ safety. Like the tie, the lab coat is haven for germs. Imaging the havoc of spreading treatment-resistant germs (i.e. MRSA) from patient to patient.
I, too, agree that it is time for doctors to get rid of the coats. However, my reason is not so scientific nor altruistic.
The Great Confusion
Imagine for a moment where every public servant wore a dark-blue uniform, a dark-blue cap, and a badge. You would think that they are all police officers. But upon closer inspection, only some of the badges would say, “Police.” Others would say “Lawyer,” “Paralegal,” “Transcriber,” “Clerk,” and more.
You gotta admit … It kinda gets confusing. You can’t tell who is who!
So why the heck does everyone in hospitals (at the last ones I have rotated at) wear white lab coats? Dieticians. Technicians. Nurses. Physician assistants. Pharmacists. It is really confusing!
My biased guess is because they all wanna borrow the doctor’s credibility. Thus, they dress up like doctors.
Why Doctors Wore White Coats
I concede that doctors are not the first group of people to wear lab coats. About 100 years ago, medicine slowly transitioned from quackery (disrespected) to science (respected). Scientists, particular those working in the labs, wore coats. So doctors decided to borrow scientists’ credibility and wear the same things — with a twist.
You see … According to Slate:
Doctors strove to become more scientific, in practice and in dress. The lab coat served both purposes by providing a (supposedly) sterile work environment and soothing patients with its air of scientific authority. The traditional lab coat was beige, but doctors adopted white because the color symbolizes life and purity.
So although doctors copied scientists, they put their own spin on it. Scientists wore beige. Doctors wore white.
I’m not so annoyed that other professions were lab coats. But I am annoyed that they wear exactly the same things. Why do they have to wear the same colors? Or the same style? Darn posers.
A New Coat for a New Era
Looking at history, it is obvious that doctors created the trend for white lab coats. And it is time to start a new trend. Throw off the old and put on the new.
So this is what I propose going forward …
Instead of wearing white, doctors should wear hot pink or neon green. (These bright colors are only served for the cool kids — doctors who have massive balls.)
At first, people are gonna point and laugh. They’ll say things like:
- That is so unprofessional.
- What is he thinking?
- Look at that peacock.
It is a normal reaction to get, as a pioneer. But you gotta admit … People definitely won’t miss you coming as far as a mile away. When they spot your confident saunter (the way you walk when you have cojones the size of Jupiter) and your blinding color, people everywhere will know that you are …
For a short while, no one will mistake a doctor for a dietician, technician, nurse, physician assistant, or pharmacist. Nope. You are definitely a grade-A doctor.
But just watch. After a while, the posers will adopt that was previous “outrageous.” In a few short months, everyone else and its mothers will wanna trade their boring, white coats for a far flashier one. (Even though they can put on the coat, at least they can’t mimic your confident swagger.)
When that day comes, when the hospital transforms from a sea of white to a sea of hot pink and neon green, just remember you were first.
For thoughts about medicine and its future, visit the About Alex section and look for “Musings (My Philosophy on Medicine).”