In the United Kingdom, the iconic white coat worn by physicians for over a century has met its end. Citing the tendency to harbor infection, the government has started to phase them out.
Here in Southern California, where casual wear is standard for many physicians, the white coat is an endangered species. Ironically, at my local farmers’ market there is a woman selling organic cures for illnesses; she is a naturopathic physician and invariably wears her embroidered, knee-length white coat while standing amidst her jars of thyme and huckleberry. The same long white coats are worn by cosmeticians and medial assistants at cosmetic centers everywhere.
Why is it that just as physicians are tossing their coats, ancillary health care providers are donning theirs?
Growing up, our family physicians were always dressed impeccably, and always in white. In medical school it was a hard-earned honor to wear the short white coat on the wards. As a physician I will only see patients while I am dressed properly: a shirt, tie, shined shoes that click on the marble floors, and a long white coat.
Do patients actually care if their doctor wears a white coat? Should they care?