Why Do Doctors Wear White Coats In Hospitals And Clinics?

Why Do Doctors Wear White Coats In Hospitals And Clinics?

The lab coat or Apron Coats is the face of modern medicine. It’s hard to think of anything else that reminds one more of doctors. A statement of scientific credibility and medical expertise, the apron coats had been adopted by the medical field in the late 19th century.

Prior to this, physicians globally used primitive means of treatment for patients and lacked formal medical education. In the West, mortality rates in health centres was morbidly high; The mess made during surgical procedures was plentiful and gory, making black the colour of choice - associating doctors grimly with illness & death, as well as disguising the blood-stained apron coats that both nurses and doctors wore.

India has a rich medicinal history, dating as far back as the 2nd Millennium BCE. This can be found in the Atharvaveda and the Ayurveda, books that are filled with ‘magical’ practices and charms to expel the ‘demons’ that were causing sickness and disease. Physicians in ancient India have been documented wearing traditional Indian attire, like the dhoti during their practice.

As the field of western medicine evolved over the years, the effectiveness of modern science in saving lives skyrocketed. The wearing of the white lab coat century was a ‘rebranding’ of sorts- giving a sterile and calming look to doctors and assuring patients that they were in the hands of an educated expert who would use their knowledge of modern medicine to heal them. As colony of the United Kingdom, the practices of the West were mirrored in India. “Doctory” took off in our country during this period and was supported by the British, as well as the western-educated Indians. And so, long-sleeved white coats have become a staple among doctors since the late 19th century.

Perhaps the formal documentation of the transition from black to white doctor’s coats are two paintings by Thomas Eakins- one painted in 1875 titled ‘The Gross Clinic’ portraying surgeons in a theatre dressed in all-black, and ‘The Agnew Clinic’, painted in 1889 with male doctors in white, full sleeve doctor coats and a female nurse clad in a white apron coat. The iconic semiotics of the white lab coats have been imprinted in the universal consciousness ever since.

At present, there’s a debate about the need for this highly formal medical apparel- one the one hand, supporters of lab coats for physicians argue that patients find solace in being treated by professionals. Ample surveys have been conducted and studies find that the elderly in specific, are in support of the idea that doctors must wear apron coats, perceiving it as a symbol of trust. The practice of ‘White Coat Ceremonies’ is carried out in thousands of hospitals where Medical Interns are awarded short lab coats, as opposed to their senior doctors, who sport long-sleeved lab coats on the hospital premises, making it easy to distinguish between students and practicing professionals.

On the other hand, critics of the white coat vouch for the idea that the practice of wearing lab coats (The Mayo Clinic only allows its doctors to wear business attire) is getting outdated, and is perceived as a symbol of hierarchy and dominance of doctors over other professionals in the medical setting like nurses and patients. The phenomena of “White Coat Syndrome '' (when one’s blood pressure readings are higher in a hospital than in another setting, such as the patient’s home) has widely been widely observed and supports this argument.

Mangalore-based doctor, Edmond Fernandes points out that Laboratory coats are a- “harbour of germs and viruses and become carriers of contaminants' '

In an article published by the Indo-Asian News Service, he said "White coats are mere symbolism and wearing them does not itself confer status or professionalism. Dressing presentably and sporting a smile are more important than white coats and institutions should give every medical student and doctor a recognizable name badge to wear. “An easy win would be for India's ministry of health to ban doctors and medical students from wearing white coats, to reduce the harm and cost that results from hospital-acquired infections," Fernandes said in his study published in the journal The BMJ.

At Knya, we know that change is the only constant in the ever-evolving field of medicine. Until the debate of whether or not to wear lab coats resolves, there is one thing that medicos can be completely sure of- whatever their requirement, we’ve got them covered!

Our mission at Knya is to spoil healthcare warriors with a wide variety of work apparel choices to choose from. We understand exactly what our healthcare warriors want out of their daily workwear and are here to provide style! Our comfortable, stylish and agile range of scrubs, Doctor apron coats and accessories are here to impress.

Sewed with perfection, our scrubs are designed with carefully thought-out pockets for all your medical essentials. Available in nice aesthetic colours and an unmatched diversity of sizes from XS to 3XL- we’ve got the perfect fit to flatter for every body type, shape, and age. Our long and short-sleeved coats are tailored to fit seamlessly over scrubs, while ensuring a breathable and soft fabric-feel. Accessorize with Knya’s quirky scrub caps, snug ankle socks and our protective, reusable masks, and you’re ready to take over the world!


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