Why do doctors wear white coats?

This version connects the appearance of the robe with the idea of ​​the need for ideal cleanliness during medical procedures. In the second half of the 19th century, thanks to the French scientist Louis Pasteur, doctors agreed that diseases spread through bacteria vectors, and to prevent this, disinfection should be carried out – the same one advocated by the English doctor Joseph Lister.

Disinfected means clean, but on what color is dirt most visible? On white.

Therefore, professional white medical clothing quickly came into use: it supported the impression of sterility, safety and a serious attitude to work. Cleanliness and antiseptics are two pillars of medical theory and practice.

The second story. A robe is a sign of a professional

There is a version according to which, from the very beginning, a white coat distinguished a doctor who worked on the basis of scientific knowledge from scammers and charlatans who deceived patients and sold them obviously useless remedies “for all diseases.” I see a man in a white coat – I see a doctor.

Let us remember that at first only doctors wore white coats. Nurses wore dresses, even dark ones, and were only allowed to wear a white apron and sleeves. So the robe served as an identification mark of a person with a medical education, prepared, who knew what to do.

Later, nurses, orderlies, medical students, and pharmacists wore scrubs, but the sight of a man in a white coat still gives many patients a feeling of confidence in the doctor’s professionalism.

In 2015-2016 in the USA, they surveyed 4 thousand patients and found that a doctor in a white coat, especially worn over business-style clothing (pants, shirt and tie), inspires the most trust. In second place in terms of trust was a doctor in a white coat, worn over the standard medical uniform these days (colored pants and a wide top with short sleeves).

Then why did they abandon white coats?

The gown is not sterile

Even the whitest gown can transfer pathogens from one patient to another. When this issue was investigated, even Staphylococcus aureus was found on a quarter of the gowns! Most of the pathogens were found on sleeves, pockets and buttons with button loops.

In addition, robes were sent out for washing too rarely, usually when clearly visible stains appeared. The white coat served for quite a long time as a symbol of cleanliness and sterility, but in fact it turned out to be one of the carriers of pathogens inside the hospital.

The robe inspires fear

Psychiatrists and pediatricians especially insistently pointed this out: their patients, already in a fragile emotional state, began to become even more nervous at the sight of a white coat. And in general, it has long been known that 30% of patients, when their blood pressure is measured in the hospital, see higher numbers than if the measurement was carried out at home.

It is believed that the reason is the more nervous environment of the medical institution, including the doctor’s white coat. After all, we only see a person in a white coat in a hospital, and therefore we develop a stable negative association!

It turns out that the robe creates an emotional barrier between the doctor and the patient. That’s why the prestigious Mayo Clinic requires doctors to wear regular business attire to avoid creating this barrier.

The robe serves as a marker of inequality

This is not true in all countries, but here’s an interesting fact: in the US, you can tell who you’re dealing with by the length of your robe. Students may only wear very short white coats. The right to wear a full-length long robe is reserved for doctors who have completed a full course of training, including several years as a “resident doctor,” that is, a novice doctor who wears a medium-length robe.

Therefore, the opinion of a man in a short robe is not taken as seriously as the words of a doctor in a long robe, although the former may be right and the latter may be wrong.

As a result, a new recommendation has emerged: wear short sleeves: washing your hands with a disinfectant is much easier than washing your robe. It is better if the clothes are of a color that calms patients and creates an atmosphere of trust.

It is not surprising that in recent years we have often seen doctors wearing blue, blue or light green uniforms, or even pink clothes.

Of course, you can always find a white coat with sleeves up to the elbow or longer – or just roll up long sleeves… And who said that a colored medical uniform causes less nervousness than a white coat? Especially if a black waterproof vest is worn over it, as one reputable hospital in the United States recommends, arguing that such a vest is convenient for the doctor and does not transfer infection from patient to patient.

Leave a Comment