The white coat gives a specific emotional response from patients.
Traditionally, they were beige, but white is synonymous with innocence, being trustworthy, cleanliness and life. In the past, doctors wore their street clothes most often or black, reflecting the mortality and frequent deaths seen in their chosen profession.
Today, the coats lend an air of professionalism and evoke feelings of a doctor’s superiority and intelligence in patients.
Recently, my sister received her white coat in a ceremony held at her medical school. Many medical schools do this as a rite of passage, symbolizing beginning a physician’s role. Some hospitals use the white coat to differentiate between nurses and doctors.
The white coat is currently being debated. In 2009, the American Medical Association voted to stop using the white coat Because it can harbor bacteria and germs, being worn from one visit with a patient to the next.
Essentially, today, the white coat evokes a feeling of confidence in patients. It says, “I’m a healer, a scientist, a trustworthy person with lots of school and training.”
Older people especially tend to like the white coat but more doctors are moving to just their everyday clothes or scrubs and a stethoscope draped around their neck.