Saturday, February 14, 2015

Real Talk: The long white coat

As a medical student, I often yearned for the day when my short coat would be replaced with a long one, my name embroidered with an “M.D.” after it. I would gaze longingly at my residents and attendings adorned in their Capes of Knowledge, flitting about the hospital in their flowing white garment dispensing Ativan and reassurance like candy and wine. (Just kidding, candy is bad for you).
Well, I am half-an-intern-year wiser and I’m here to tell you: The Establishment has you duped. They have carefully cultivated this illustrious image of the Long White Coat (LWC), but what they aren't telling you is that it is not worth its weight in anything except maybe Robbins Pathology textbooks.

I know, I know, there are things people actually like about their LWCs. It’s a shining beacon of authority! (Especially the day after Laundry Day). It serves as an extra layer of protection from hospital subarctic temperatures and bloody vomit, sometimes simultaneously! It comes with pockets for carrying Very Important Stuff like energy bars, the purple book of wisdom, and an IV kit for mainlining caffeine!

The most tragic dupes of The Establishment are women, who have been brainwashed for years upon years by the fashion industry into being thankful for the pockets, since every other garment leaves them (us) deprived. It’s a massive conspiracy that’s been playing out for centuries! But that belongs in a separate article that I will never write because fashion is so far from being my thing.

Okay, so the benefits pretty much end there. Now for the drawbacks, with some suggestions sprinkled in:

The Coat Mass Index

    MD trench
  • It is a couple feet longer than our student coats, which just means extra inches to iron (ha.) and keep clean. Ain’t nobody got time for that! Those are precious minutes that could be spent sleeping, or stealthily scarfing down lunch in the bathroom where no one can find you.
  • Those extra inches also mean you keep rolling your chair over it, which means it gets dirty, which means you have to wash it again (maybe), which means you have to iron it again…you see where I’m going with this.
  • More square inches = greater surface area to cover in miscellaneous fluids, including but not limited to: blood, emesis, printer ink, stray pen marks, etc. Cue vicious cycle yet again.
  • New and improved length blocks universal scrub back pocket access! Making for awkward moments when you hike your coat up to fish out your phone.
  • Extra length means the stethoscope in your pocket is now at perfect door-snagging length. Excess fabric is more than happy to co-snag with the stethoscope, making it difficult to maintain a semblance of dignity and authority while cursing at a door knob.
  • Yes, they come with nice, roomy pockets. But as with any benefit offered to a capitalist society, you’re tempted to ‘make the most of them’ and stuff them chock full of Very Important Stuff, which makes for sad shoulders and a sad back.
    • I hear the Pocket Capitalism Effect tapers off as you go up the ranks, since eventually you will be a bad-ass attending who only needs to carry around your brain and a pen to scrawl chicken-scratch on the souls of your minions.

Just for kicks, how cool would it be if white coats grew on their own? Lengthening by a percentage of your height per year of experience – eventually, they will all be like awkward, collared and buttoned, infected wedding dresses.

Fashion Commentary

  • The fabric is hot. And I don’t mean the kind of hot that gets you all excited. I mean the kind of hot that gets you all disgustingly overheated and uncomfortable. You’d think they would have discovered a more breathable material by now. Can we get Under Armour on this?
  • Also: Why aren't LWCs fluid resistant yet??
  • Maybe instead of white, they should come in shades of body fluid, the ultimate camouflaging technique. I’m not entirely sure how this could best be engineered. A swatch for each type of fluid? A fancy cloth mosaic?
  • The LWCs are inherently sexist! I’m sure this shocks exactly no one (see fashion industry mini-rant above).
    • Guys don’t get a slimming band across the back. Why not? They have as much right to a tapered fit as the rest of us.
    • Gals don’t get pocket-accessing side slits! I mean, it’s bad enough we usually get gypped on the pocket square footage front, but now we can’t even get to them!

 The [unwelcome] Genius Effect

  • People think you actually know stuff. I mean, the coat even says “M.D.” on it. This is dangerous.
  • It comes free with a 15th century pager. Run away! This is not a good deal! Silence your inner capitalist!

Cargo scrub pants are the great equalizer. Everyone should have to wear them all the time whenever they’re in the hospital. The end.