By Josephine Reid
There can surely be some awkward moments in regards to the overuse of the white coat in medical school. However, there have been practical benefits to wearing a white coat in many situations. If someone forgets your name, they can just read it off of your coat without having to awkwardly ask you again. If you are a woman, no one will automatically assume you are the nurse. Although some regions experience extreme heat outside, it is often times cold inside hospitals, so the extra layer comes in handy. And the pockets are great for holding notes and beyond.
The perception of the white coat has similarly varied amongst physicians, patients and medical students alike. Some see it as an honor, while others see it as a symbol of elitism. And while many patients, or medical teachers/community prefer that their health care provider wears professional dress with a white coat, these opinions vary with age — with younger patients often preferring less formal attire.
The “White Coat Ceremony” also plays a factor into the significance of white coats within the community. The first White Coat Ceremony was held by Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago in 1989, an idea that was then adapted into the first “full-fledged” White Coat Ceremony sponsored by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1993.
By the new millennium, the ceremony had been taken on by the vast majority of medical schools in the country. As with any other uniform, the white coat can be seen as just an article of clothing associated with a particular job. The motivation behind the White Coat Ceremony, however, was to “emphasize compassion in medicine at the very beginning of medical training, not just at graduation when students become doctors, and to link this idea of patient-centered humanism to the coat we would be expected to wear.”