White coats have been a fixture in medicine since only the late 19th century. Doctors previously wore black, but switched to white laboratory attire to signal that medicine was science and pure. The coat has also been a symbol of status. The longer the coat the more tenure and power. The long coat easily identified (to ancillary hospital staff) experienced Doctors who are more capable of helping a patient during a life threatening situation.
Currently there are discussions underway to get rid of the white coat. Why? They spread infections.
Although I do not deal with infected hospital patients, I do believe it’s time to rid doctors of these white coats.
Patients that are admitted to hospitals are sick and often harbor resistant “super bugs”.
The reason to leave the white coat in the past is that this coat is not cleaned between patients and serves as a germ magnet! These germs can cause deadly infections from one patient to another. And these bacteria enter the homes of health professionals.
The crisp white coat has long been worn to symbolize a profession — and purity. But some studies shows the coats are teeming with microbes picked up in patient hospital rooms and are transported around the hospital from room to room and patient to patient. This path has resulted in the ever increasing issue of nosocomial infections. Nosocomial infections are infections caused in a patient from hospital staff not just doctors.
Hand washing alone is not the only means of preventing infections. Leaving the white coat behind also is not the only solution. Nursing and ancillary medical staffs are to blame as well. Each group has a jacket.
The solution is not just hand washing but also involves prevention. Disposable gowns, hats, gloves are to be used as a measure of prevention along with hand-washing and proper aseptic techniques. What is brought into the hospital as well as what leaves the hospital is equally important. This can involve change of clothing so that hospital attire is not brought home. These germs then can invade all the clothing and living space in a person’s home which would then be brought back to the hospital to another patient another day.
With the rise of resistant “super bugs” the white coat is only a ripple, but a good step in prevention.
Call 248.538.3333 for more information
Dr. Michael W. Gray