I know recent journals would place the blame squarely on the unfortunate inanimate object for being a carrier of germs - instead of pointing the finger on the errant unhygienic physician. When I look around, I can't help but notice the yellowed unrecognizable stains ( baby vomit, poo, snot, all manner of bodily fluids no doubt ) on some of my colleagues' weathered white coats, a few no doubt beaten to submission with rocks by the rushing stream till nearly translucent. Citing reasons such as spreading infection and the sweltering tropical heat, more than a few physicians have shed their coats - seems like the more senior the position, the less likely you'd find them in a coat.
Wouldn't surprise me if their coats had been condemned as dangerous biological waste after years of patient abuse. :)
Don't you like me in my coat?
Me, I like that old venerable white coat. Despite spending most of my time togged up in blue scrubs ( seriously one of the most comfortable uniforms ever ), I still have my dependable white coat hanging in my locker. Although other faculties have similarly co-opted the white coat, it still remains along with the stethoscope and the serpented staff of Aesculapius one of the most recognizable symbols of the profession. Somehow or rather despite evidences to the contrary ( and we all know about white coat hypertension, right? ), the white coat plays a role in establishing a rapport and reminding us of our solemn duties as a physician. It comforts some of the adult patients and despite how erroneous they may be, first impressions do count after all.
Note how I didn't mention paediatric patients. Some kids associate doctors with painful procedures - and anything zipping by in a white coat would have them scurrying away in fright - hence the relative rarity of coats in some paediatric institutions.
Most importantly, you see these pockets? My white coat houses my prescription pad, multiple pens ( they keep mysteriously disappearing on me! ), stethoscope and reference manuals ( PDAs for my more technologically savvy juniors ) in roomy pockets. And the unexpected... the occasional Fisherman's Friend, the emergency chocolate bar / energy bar, the crushed paperback I read in between cases, movie tickets, my unpaid bills that I plan to run off during lunch to pay.
Seriously, it's like unearthing Tutankhamen's Tomb. A bottle of mineral water. Shakira's latest CD. I've even seen a medical student produce a M.A.C. lipstick and compact from the depths of her coat.
No, I'm not ready to hang up my coat just yet.