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My White Coat

Posted Apr 06 2009 7:16pm 1 Comment
In preparing for our office move I recently rediscovered my long white doctor's coat hanging on the back of my office door for the better part of five years. For some reason this weekend, after all these years, I decided to wear it as I made rounds while on call in the hospital.

The first day of medical school we had a White Coat Ceremony. In the great lecture hall the dean instructed us help our classmates next to us put on their coat as a sign that we will always be there to help each other. These were the the short white coats to distinguish us as students. The only exception was during for surgical rotations when we were allowed to wear the long ones, but pockets stuffed with wound dressing supplies in addition to the standard books and to-do-lists made it obvious where we were on the totem pole. (It was a general truth the weight of your coat was inversely proportional to your position in the hierarchy.) It was even the custom with your first laceration repair to take the hemostat out of the suture kit, put a role of silk tape and a role of paper tape on the end, and clamp it to the side of your white coat. Now all I had in my coat pocket were my stethoscope, PDA, and car keys. I had indeed moved up in the world.

Several studies have shown patients prefer their physician to wear a white coat, but I've always had a hard time believing these results could be generalized to my highly informal patients. I didn't want to create a barrier with my patients, so I've chosen to go without. From a very practical standpoint, our office doesn't have central air conditioning and wearing a white coat in the middle of summer would be oppressively hot anyway.

So why put on the white coat this weekend? There was something comforting in it. Physically it was like a warm comfortable sweater with good pockets to rest my hands. Mentally and emotionally, however, there was something much more. It was that sense of comfort and stability we derive from tradition and ritual in our lives; that sense of a connection to the past; to know that amidst whatever change or chaos is going on that some things remain the same. I think this is what made me enjoy wearing the white coat after all these years.

With the end of this weekend's of rounding and temperatures expected to reach a high for the year it's time to take the white coat off again, but somehow I don't think it'll be another five years before I put it on again.

The Country Doctor
Comments (1)
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whoa!

This coming January, our classes will start.  I am so excited.  My mother prepare my things like my stethoscope, PDA and white adar lab coats.  Ever since I want to be a doctor someday, I guess this will be my stepping stones.  I want to fulfill my dreams - a successful surgeon here in Arizona.  I wonder what is the life of a surgeon.

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