Louisville Medicine Volume 67, Issue 10 | Page 17

INTERSECTION OF DESIGN & MEDICINE A ian Mor F O OR Mar A O C L OR T N E R E DIFF ris, MD A s an aspiring doctor, I could hardly wait to get my first white coat. I saw it as a symbol of competence and achievement. Soon after my own white coat ceremony, I realized my short coat marked me as one with lots to learn. I wore it proudly throughout my medical school years, but by the end of my pediatric residency, I began to wonder if it helped or hurt when it came to caring for little ones. Like many pediatricians, I worried that a white coat would provoke great fear in young children. In an instant, that fear can take over, and gaining that child’s trust is hard. These days, like many doctors, I have eschewed my uncomfort- able, ill-fitting white coat in favor of professional dress and a badge that indicates in large font “MD.” However, many of my colleagues, particularly my female practice partners, do still wear white coats, with various motivations. They cite the professional credibility it provides, warmth and the handy-dandy pockets. More pediatricians wear white coats in the inpatient setting than in the outpatient office, thinking that parents may find the sight of the long white coat reassuring. For women, that coat may be the final clue that the family is speaking to the doctor, and the MD will not (again) hear the dreaded, “Nurse, when is the doctor coming in?” Or, “Are you the housekeeping supervisor? I have a bone to pick with you.” TH storage for the tools of any given specialty. Most important for us is that kids know pockets are magic. Pediatricians stock their pockets with stickers, bubbles and flashy toys to bring some pocket joy to an interaction that might otherwise be stressful. One reason not to wear a white coat is the concern that it’s a fomite, carrying disease from room to room. This can be a chal- lenge for female physicians, as the typical white coat was clearly designed for the broad-shouldered male. The sleeves are often too long, getting visibly dirty quickly, and may spread germs as they touch patient after patient. Additionally, the white color shows all the spills or stains acquired throughout the day. Some pediatricians who wish to wear a coat, but who have con- cerns about the reaction that it may provoke, have compromised by trading their signature white for coats of different colors. Many pediatricians make their coats more kid-friendly by decorating them with brightly colored patches or pins. The jury is still out on whether the future of pediatrics comes donned in a stiff white coat. Perhaps one day we will have a “coat of a different color ceremony” and enjoy the kaleidoscope display of our graduating residents’ own design. Dr. Morris is an outpatient pediatrician with Norton Healthcare Pediatrics (non-member). Pockets are one great reason to wear a white coat, with easy MARCH 2020 15