3 reasons why doctors should leave their white coats in the closet

doctors white coat

This post is written for discussion purposes, and not to offend medical professionals. We invite everyone with a constructive opinion to express it here by posting a comment.

 

Ever heard of the dark shadow following a doctor each time he puts on his white coat?

It’s called THE RISK.

And I don’t talk about the natural risk that comes with every medical decision. That risk is unquestionable, and it’s an integral part of this job.

I’m talking about the physical and psychological risk patients are exposed to every time they are near this clothing.

Data about negative effects of wearing the white coat are each day more apparent and eligible to the public. There is an increasing number of renown doctors, highly rated hospitals, and even entire states that are raising their voices against white coats.

And it has its reasons, of course.

In the continuation of this post, you can see which 3 main reasons are making doctors leave their white coats in the closet, and instead wear something they feel is more comfortable for working, and safer for the environment.

Bonus: Download a free document which will give you an idea about what to wear if you choose to leave your white coat in the closet + see what top medical experts have to say about it.

We’ve done everything to stop hospital infections, and they’re here again

It’s better to wear your white coat when you’re making a Christmas dinner, then to wear it while seeing a patient.”

-Dr. Peter Pronovost, Director of the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality Johns Hopkins Medicine

No published study has proven it yet, but white coats are considered to be one of the main transmitters of hospital infections.

Any research of a larger scale would put this “medical symbol” on a test that would have a clear end result. That is a good enough reason to postpone this research indefinitely.

With or without the study, the end result is obvious. It’s a quite simple logical calculation.

  1. A. It’s known for a fact that white coats on its sleeves and pockets host many pathogens, often resistant to drugs such as meticilin resistant s. areaus (MRSA).
  2. Bacteria is transmitted from doctors to patients and vice versa
  3. Doctors engage with patients every day and examine them using their equipment which they carry around their necks or in pockets.

When we sum up A, B, and C, we get a clear result – doctors who wear white coats transmit infections in hospitals.

If we add to this a a research in which American doctors, interns and medical students honestly admitted that they wash their white coats in average once every 15 days, then this issue is even clearer.

how often do doctors wash their white coats

Can this issue be resolved without discarding the white coats?

No, it can only soothe the consequences in those hospitals that take over the responsibility of washing and sterilizing the white coats of their employees.

The outcome will still be uncertain. According to this study, it takes only 8 about hours for sterilized coats to become as contaminated as coats that aren’t cleaned regularly.

You a have white worm in your medical records

We’re well aware that measuring blood pressure is the main component of most medical exams. Basic measurements are done, and the data is entered into the patient’s medical record.

The problem with blood pressure measuring results appears because of hypertension caused by a white coat.The main characteristic of this hypertension is the fact that 15-30% of patients get scared or excited due to doctor’s presence and authority, which  causes increased blood pressure.

Patient’s excitement increases their blood pressure and thus false data end up in patient’s medical record.

That’s the white worm in your medical records.

If we add to this that the medical system isn’t adjusted to individual patients and that inputs into patient’s medical records are done exclusively by doctors in hospitals, then this problem is even bigger.

As a consequence, patients often get the wrong diagnosis. It isn’t rare that a patient receives inadequate therapy for years just because he was excited while seeing a doctor wearing a white coat.

Hypertension caused by white coats isn’t benign at all. According to most recent studies by Dr. Wanpen Vongpatanasin, Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern, this phenomenon has a direct impact on increasing the risk of coronary heart disease.

The impact of white coats on transmitting hospital infections and changes in human organism is a serious risk, but due to its prevalence none is dangerous as the following one.

White coat is like a “shiny pacifier” for grownups

“The white coat is designed to make you think you’re getting accurate, well researched information from a renowned medical expert. Sometimes you get them, but sometimes you don’t. Its purpose is to stop you from questioning doctor’s authority”
-Dr. Aviva Romm, specialist in integrative medicine for women and children at Yale University-

The white coat is not a symbol for a doctor or medicine, but it’s often advertised as such. It has 2 purposes, none of which has any connection whatsoever with what a doctor fundamentally represents.

  1. They help establish clear hierarchy in hospitals. The goal is to distinct the doctors with more years of experience and education from other members of their team. They usually have the longest coats.
  2. The other purpose is to impose authority upon the patients. Doctors began to use them in the 19th century, and it has been used to present doctors as ideal and authoritative ever since.

We are well aware that this psychological phenomenon is used to promote various health products. Often there’s a commercial featuring a doctor sitting in her long white coat, assuring us that it’s the product she’s holding in her hand that will solve all of our problems.

Its purpose isn’t that much different as the one from the commercials. If we consider the doctor as an unquestionable authority, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll end up questioning his opinions.

Moderate authority isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Furthermore, it can be useful for growing mutual trust between doctors and patients, but authority amplified by the effect of the white coat becomes an undisputed authority, and that authority is very dangerous for treatment outcomes.

The white coat affects patient’s reasonable reckoning, same as any other formal uniform. People accept without thinking anything they may hear from a policeman, bank clerk, or a doctor wearing a uniform.

After waiting in average a month for a medical exam, and an hour in a waiting room, the patient gets approximately 15-30 minutes with the doctor.

If in those 15-30 minutes the patient is unable to speak without fear about his symptoms, and critically contribute to his diagnosis and selecting the adequate treatment, then we have a key issue in healthcare.

Badly designed medical system + tiny things (just on first look) such as white coats and patient exclusion in decision making regarding his own health, have direct influence on  medical errors which are one of the main causes of death.

Wrap-up

When we take in account all these facts, the question “should doctors lose their white coats?”  remains just a formal question. It’s equivalent to the question “should we use a parachute when jumping from a plane?”

We cannot wait for the state to make policies which will ban the usage of white coats. Our state will never do it.

Same as in the rest of the world, this topic will divide doctors into 2 opposed groups:

  1. First group are the doctors which believe that by wearing the white coat they enter into an “above world” where they get curing powers historically given to them by God. These are the same ones who believe that patients shouldn’t be involved in decision making regarding their own health.
  2. Second group are those who build relationships with patients, without the need to be superior, smarter. It’s those who believe that the patient is the center of healthcare, and that all imposed “symbols of medicine” should be re-evaluated for patient’s well-being.

It’s in the best interest that every doctor, without imposing, decides which of these “jerseys” he’ll pick, the white one, or the other one, human one?

Bonus: Click on the image below and find out which 5 garments can replace your white coats

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