There may be many workers in hospitals, and they may all be dressed differently, but one thing is certain: no office attire is as symbolic or traditional as a doctor’s white coat.
Nurses often wear scrubs of different colors, each with its own purpose, but when you see a physician, he or she is bound to be wearing a white coat. Those who work in health care administration or in the office performing clerical duties may be dressed professionally, and those who work in health care administration or in the office performing clerical duties may be dressed professionally. In fact, according to one survey, white coats are worn by 72 percent of hospital doctors and medical students, with the majority of them wearing them more than 75 percent of the time. The question of whether a doctor wears a white coat remains unanswered.
It may surprise you to hear that, traditionally, and up until the late nineteenth century, doctors didn’t wear any white at all; instead, they wore only black. The black garments worn by doctors in the past not only symbolized their solemn, severe demeanor, which was also synonymous with death, but they also served the practical purpose of concealing dirty garments and all of the messy stains that come with the job.
In with the clean, sterile look and out with the black look of death. Hospitals began using brand, new white sheets on their beds, nurses wore white caps on their hats, and doctors wore fancy new white coats to regain the public’s confidence in them and their new handwashing skills.
While the black coat was more practical for covering stains or escorting a patient to the other side, the white coat became a symbol of the modern face of medicine. As two famous paintings by Thomas Eakins famously depict, one depicting an operating theater of doctors all dressed in dark coats in 1875 called “The Gross Clinic,” and the other depicting doctors all dressed in white coats in 1889 called “The Agnew Clinic,” the change occurred relatively quickly.
No one knows for sure when the first white coat was created or who produced it, but it is obvious that the white coat became associated with presenting the doctor as a clean, healthy figure of authority in the new-and-improved medical world, and that image has never really gone away. As a result, the classic white coat of the doctor was born.
Nowadays, the motives range from a symbol of professionalism, dignity, and the highest dedication to caring for the sick and suffering to a symbol of professionalism, integrity, and the highest commitment to caring for the sick and suffering. It begins almost immediately after a student graduates from medical school and earns their diploma, as almost all medical schools hold a “white coat ceremony,” a rite of passage that marks the transition from student to physician.
The value of attire, however, is not limited to the coat itself, but also to what is worn under it. Patients regarded doctors who wore a white coat over business wear as more professional, trustworthy, compassionate, and approachable. This point of view is much more prevalent in patients over the age of 65. Patients were most satisfied and approved of physicians who wore surgical scrubs under their white coats. Physicians who only wore office clothes and did not wear a white coat came in third place in the survey.
The wearing of a white coat by a doctor is not required; in emergency rooms and operating rooms, patients preferred doctors to wear only surgical scrubs. Although this choice may reflect what is considered “professional” in that particular environment, others argue that white coats increase the risk of Hospital Acquired Infection (HAI). The American Medical Association considered banding white coats in hospitals in 2009, but the motion failed.
Despite the fact that almost everything that comes into contact with a patient is sanitized or discarded, one study found that while hospital employees washed scrubs every one to two days, lab coats were washed every 12 days.
In the health-care sector, extra precautions have been urged, such as washing or disinfecting coats more often, or even rolling up the sleeves. For both doctors and surgeons, a white coat is not necessary. Psychiatrists and pediatricians, for example, tend to dress in business casual and put their patients at ease. Patient anxiety about a doctor can cause high blood pressure readings in as many as 30% of patients, according to the century-old “white coat syndrome,” first recorded in 1896.
Although it can seem minor at first glance, research shows that “white coat syndrome” can be very severe. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, patients with elevated blood pressure and white coat syndrome have double the chance of death as those with low blood pressure and white coat syndrome. Aside from the risk of transmitting infection or consideration for patients who may have a genuine phobia, some doctors may choose not to wear a white coat for personal reasons.
As iconic as the white coat is, the world of medicine has progressed, and instead of acting as a hierarchical statement about a doctor’s dominance over patients or even colleagues, those in the medical industry are debating if the white coat is harmful or beneficial. Have you ever heard of the term “white coat syndrome”?
Many patients, however, still take comfort in the medical professional’s white coat sign, because it remains a key figure in patient-centered treatment. Today’s medical practitioners, on the other hand, have options. Doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants will get the best of both worlds with realistic, comfortable scrubs that can be used for hands-on patient care and professional lab coats with a modern fit and high-quality material. So, although the white coat will live on, that doesn’t rule out the possibility of it getting any better.
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