This I Believe
I believe in the white coat.
I wear a white coat to carry things, because the pockets can hold my stethoscope, reflex hammer, prescription pad, business cards, and pens.
When the air conditioning is too cold, the white coat keeps me warm.
When the immunization schedule changes yet again, I keep a little note to remind myself.
My name and department are stitched onto the white coat, so people can identify me.
The white coat keeps my clothes clean, so I don’t carry home so many viruses. Or coffee stains.
Though it is now thought of as almost a costume, the white coat continues to be a symbol of scientific objectivity. And, though I am fond of my patients and their parents, I am, after all, a doctor, someone who collects data, analyzes information, and takes a rational approach to problem solving.
In my practice, I have not found that wearing the white coat scares children or intimidates their parents. It seems they are looking more at my face. They look for signs of friendliness, listening, empathy, and thinking.
My daughter, who is nine, borrows my old white coat when she and her friend are playing pediatricians, examining their newborn baby dolls. They also use my extra stethoscope, oto-ophthalmoscope, measuring tape, everything in the black bag I keep at here at home. They take notes, write prescriptions, give advice. I’m impressed with the sophistication of their role playing. And it’s the white coat that pulls it all together for them.
Now I don’t know if my daughter, or any of my three sons, will choose to study medicine. Right now, it just seems wonderful that I’m able to be a doctor and their mother at the same time. I’m proud to employ my time in both of these occupations, and wearing a white coat when I’m working helps me keep that part of my identity clear.
When I go home at the end of the day, I take off the white coat and hang it on a hook on the door to my office. I leave it there. Along with most of the worries. And the coffee stains.
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