Picture a doctor in your mind’s eye, and what do you see? A stethoscope, maybe. Perhaps a little black bag. And almost certainly a white lab coat. But that last item may be destined for oblivion.
The New York Times reports, “The American Medical Association is studying a proposal made at its annual meeting in June that doctors hang up their lab coats — for good.”
The AMA’s “Council on Science and Public Health is looking at the role clothing plays in transmitting bacteria and other microbes and is expected to announce its findings next year.”
The British National Health System has already “adopted a ‘bare below the elbow’ hospital dress policy that bans long fingernails, ties, hand and wrist jewelry – and . . . lab coats.”
Although “little data existed that definitively ties lab coats and other accoutrements to . . . infections,” Peter Ragusa, the author of the resolution and a student at the Yale School of Public Health, claimed that “the potential for transmission is significant.”
Guenter Risse, a physician and author, also noted that “there’s been a trend toward taking the coats off . . . because they were felt to be intimidating.”
It should be interested to see what happens. In the meantime, I’ll wear my white coat, but be sure it’s laundered twice a week.