Jun 18, 2009

Instead of White Coat Ceremony....How About a White Coat Funeral?

With the help of my sister and best friend, Emily, I can confidently walk out of my house knowing that I will not look like a fashion disaster. Shopping with them has helped me learn that while some fashion trends don't make sense (sunglasses with slits), a lot of fashion does make logical and practical sense. There are silhouettes and fabrics for specific seasons and occasions (wool when it's cold or skirts in the spring). So even in the name of fashion, it's about time doctors align fashion with practicality!

Yesterday, the AMA agreed to recommend that hospitals ban the white coat. As the WSJ Health Blog reports, "the risk of cuffs spreading infection between hospital patients isn’t worth the symbolism of the white coat."

Hospital-acquired infections is a serious and unfortunate problem within our health care system. According to the CDC, in 2002, 100,000 US patients died from infections acquired in hospitals. This makes hospital-acquired infections a leading cause of death in the US (click here to see a great Scrubs TV show episode illustration of how easy it is to spread harmful bacteria in a hospital). While there is no conclusive study that links white coat cuffs to infections, there are studies that have demonstrated that white coat cuffs do carry bacteria like MRSA and C. difficile.

In Shannon's visit to Scotland a few months ago, she noticed that no one wore a white coat or a tie. Most importantly, everyone rolled up their sleeves when seeing patients to abide by a new uniform dress code.

Ironically, I have just ordered my white coat in preparation for my White Coat Ceremony in just a few months. The first thing I'm going to do with my coat is to shorten the sleeves. The AMA has only passed a recommendation to abandon the white coat and says that it will be contacting the AHA to help implement this recommendation.

Here's where I think the IHI Open School could get involved. For every White Coat Ceremony that is going to occur this fall, why don't we advocate for a new extra step to the ritual. All incoming medical students should cut off the long sleeves of their white coat together. The purpose of the White Coat Ceremony, as started by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, is to promote humanism in medicine. Why not take that extra pledge to our future patients by ensuring their safety?

What are your thoughts on the idea? For those of you in other health professions, do your professional uniforms need a fashion update too? Post a comment here!


Valerie said...

This is another great post! I think your recommendation is a good one and I applaud you for taking this extra step to insure the safety of the patients you will encounter. It seems that the AMA is still considering the recommendation, but why wouldn't any health care provider want to take a simple step, such as the one you are suggesting, to make their patients safer?

emily said...

i'm picturing my classmates in cutoff whitecoats...sexy!!!

maybe cutting the sleeves off completely is a little extreme. but my roommate's baby phat coat has 3 quarter sleeves, and for those of us too embarrassed to buy baby phat white coats, we roll our sleeves up. probably still a nidus for infection, come to think of it, i like your idea better now!

Kate said...

I think it's a great idea, Eva! Awesome post!

petrenkov said...

Pretty cool place you've got here. Thanks for it. I like such themes and everything connected to this matter. I would like to read a bit more on that blog soon.

Best wishes
Alice Tudes