By Josephine Reid
“At most institutions, medical students like myself are required to wear short hip-length white coats, while residents and attendings wear long knee-length white coats. Some institutions have gone so far as to introduce different white coat styles/identifiers for med students, interns, residents, chief residents, attendings, and so on. As other health care professionals join the fray, the need to distinguish them from one another and from physicians at all levels of training, sometimes results in even more elaborate variations.” -- absurdist.org.
Ironically enough most doctors will actually take off their white coats as they’re about to do a procedure in order to keep their white coats clean. Most doctors in procedure-heavy specialties will wear uniform scrubs in order to protect themselves from big messes, which many times are provided and cleaned by the hospital for free.
Fun fact: Unlike lab coats, the physician’s white coat was conceived as a 'performance piece' to begin with. It is thought that doctors borrowed the white coat from scientists in the 19th century in order to identify themselves as “scientists” with a scientific basis for their practice and to distinguish themselves from quacks or impostors.
It also depends on the specific institution whether or not you will even be required to wear a lab coat. Whenever a lab coat does come into play, it should surely have plenty of pockets in order to be a well prepared and organized medical student. Overall, it is best to wear a short white lab coat over your uniform scrubs, especially when asked to shadow; in order to be easily identified.