“Wear a short white coat, your ID, and decent clothes.”
The above is a standard email we receive for pre-shadowing instructions in the university hospital. In our first seminar here, our medical director told us we’d need to acquire a white coat, specifically one that reached about to the waist. Why? Wouldn’t you think that a white coat is a white coat?
Much to the contrary. The length of your lab coat, in the hospital, is a relatively absurd symbol of your status in the medical hierarchy. It’s so strange that it could be an NCAA bylaw:
reach at least to, and preferably beyond, the knee level. Scraping of the floor with the Lab Coat is discouraged as this may cause the Lab Coat to become soiled with, among other things, gross cafeteria Jell-O, bodily fluids, and MRSA. Effort should be made, however, to best imitate the style of dress exemplified by wizards such as Merlin.
Just in case you entirely lack my sense of humor, I made that all up. Maybe I should have gone to law school like my most recent roommate.
Anyway, in short (ha!) your lab coat is supposed to get longer the more senior you become within a hospital. This is by no means universal, but it’s definitely prevalent. And what a weird tradition, really; in the real world, usually you can get away with more casual as you get older. A longer lab coat seems strangely more formal, doesn’t it?
If you see me walking around in 30 years with a Merlin coat, congratulate me. If I’m still in a short coat… well, maybe you should pretend you didn’t see me.