Most ER docs I know don’t actually like their white coats, but wear them because the convey professionalism. Anyone have any suggestions on what should be the new fashion?
According to the CDC, nearly 100,000 U.S. patients died in 2002 from infections contracted in hospitals. There has been no conclusive evidence linking infected cuffs to any of these deaths — studies have been done showing that bacteria like MRSA and C. difficile exist on sleeves, but there’s no proof that those germs actually get passed around that way. But backers of the change in dress code argue that as long as there’s the slightest potential of transmission, everything possible should be done to avoid it.
“As with many things in medicine, just because we can’t prove it doesn’t mean it’s not true,” said Peter Ragusa, a student at the Yale School of Public Health who was involved in drafting the proposal. “It’s hard to do randomized double-blind controlled trials with something like this. But I’m a med student and I can look down at my sleeve and see it’s dirty, I can look down at my tie and see it’s dirty.”
The British National Health System has already adopted a policy, banning ties, long sleeves, jewelry and white coats, as the BBC reported. Scotland went so far as to establish a uniform dress code that includes a short-sleeve requirement.
While many U.S. docs already follow these rules, especially those in intensive-care units, some still prefer the professionalism the white coat implies. Different white-coat styles can even reflect a hospital pecking order, we noted two years ago.