Why docs won't hang up their white coats

Considering all the details that go into the practice of medicine, what clinicians wear to work has garnered a significant amount of attention and controversy.

At the center of the wardrobe debate: the doctor's white coat. While the coat has evolved into a symbol of professionalism, the notion that the coats undermine infection control has led some physicians to hang them up, according to an article from The Boston Globe.

"Many other doctors have no intention of abandoning the jackets," noted the article. "They question whether scrubs or street clothes---or bare arms, for that matter---are any cleaner, and worry the focus on attire will distract from proven safety measures, such as handwashing."

Nonetheless, the risks of wearing white coats--even if not fully proven--outweigh benefits such as helping doctors feel confident and portraying an image that appeals to patients, argued Philip Lederer, M.D., an infectious diseases fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, in a post for the Conversation.

Many other countries in Europe do have a "bare below the elbows" dress code for clinicians, Lederer noted, and recommended that U.S. healthcare providers shift their thinking toward the same.

"The culture of medicine is very powerful, and old habits, like white coats, are hard to break," Lederer concluded. "But doctors are still doctors whether they wear a coat or not. ... There is no harm in avoiding white coats, but there could be danger in wearing one."

To learn more:
- read the article from The Boston Globe
- see the post at the Conversation