News Karnataka

Doctors! Stop wearing your white coats!

Doctors! Stop wearing your white coats!

Shutterstock   ¦   Jul 22, 2015 02:10:57 PM (IST)

Mangaluru: Edmund Fernandes, a postgraduate Medical student at Yenepoya Medical College in Mangaluru, has, in an article  published in The BMJ (one of the most influential general medicine journals in the world), suggested that Doctors and medical personnel in India, must stop wearing the long sleeved White Coat, often identified with the medical profession, as 'they harbor infection'

Doctors! Stop wearing your white coats!-1In the article written in The BMJ, he goes on to explain as to why doctors in India must not wear long sleeved white coats. “Although long sleeved white coats have traditionally been worn by doctors since the 19th century, we now know that white coats “harbour potential contaminants and contribute considerably to the burden of disease acquired in hospital by spreading infection,” Fernandes wrote.

He explains that in India, changing areas in hospitals are rare because of space constraints, so white coats are commonly worn by students coming from college and outside the hospital. They are also often left on chairs, tables, and in corridors. In many cities in India some junior doctors are also now seen wearing white coats in shopping malls and cinemas too, and then they enter sterile zones in the hospital in the same attire, he adds.

He has also suggested that the country’s tropical climate is also one of the main reasons that white coats should be banned. He says that it is common sense that we should discourage wearing white coats that are washed only once in every few weeks.

He points out that in 2007, the United Kingdom took the landmark decision to ban long sleeved white coats – and that in 2009, the American Medical Association wanted to follow suit and dump the white coats, “but the proposal was dismissed because clinicians wanted to keep their traditional gowns.”

White coats being a symbol or a badge of honour is quite a common notion and this is often used as an argument for not banning white coats. But Fernandes points out that the white coats are a mere symbolism and “wearing them does not itself confer status or professionalism.”

He believes that “dressing presentably and sporting a smile are more important than white coats” and that institutions “should give every medical student and doctor a recognisable name badge to wear.”

He also goes on to point out that we can do other things to reduce hospital acquired infections, such as better hand washing compliance.

“Every hospital should have a committee to check and respond to hospital acquired infections,” he says. “But an easy win would be for India’s ministry of health to ban doctors and medical students from wearing white coats, to reduce the harm and cost that results from hospital acquired infections,” he urged.

Dr. Edmund Fernandes may be contacted at edmondvirgo@gmail.com