White lab coats may be on their way out.
The AMA is considering a proposal to follow the lead of the British National Health System by recommending against the use of white coats by physicians. The Brits have a “bare below the elbows” policy to help prevent infections. Supposedly physician lab jackets carry too many germs and contribute to the incidence of infections – although there is little data directly linking white coats to incidence of infections. The NY Times article does cite one study in which 48% of a small sampling of physicians ties had some type of infectious organism on them.
The problem that I see with the recommendation is that it is based on assumptions and not on data. The British National Health System policy went into effect a couple of years ago. Where is the data showing the drop in the number of infections? I couldn’t find anything on an internet search.
Lab coats aren’t just for show. They also protect a physician’s clothing. I’ve gotten all kinds of bodily fluid splattered on my lab jacket at one time or another. Now that I usually just wear scrubs, it isn’t uncommon for me to get splashed with blood or other bodily fluids. If I do wear a lab jacket, I usually roll the sleeves up to my mid-forearm anyway.
The article brought up a good point. Once the lab coats are gone, then will they then recommend that we wear tank tops to avoid the inadvertent contamination of a short sleeve onto a patient’s body? One doctor in the article asked “Are we going to go around naked?”
Besides, what would I use as my nickname if white coats were banished?
Somehow Dr. BareElbows just doesn’t have the same ring to it …