Doctor, Please Take Off Your Disgusting Coat

A guy walked into Flour Bakery the other day, while I waited for my sandwich. He caught my eye immediately. Was it his looks? His manner? Oh, no, neither: it was the white BMC medical resident coat, stethoscope and notepad in the pocket and all, screaming “Hospitals! Patients! MRSA! Fungus! C. Diff! Cross-Contamination! Yay!”

Dude, that’s nasty. Nasty, nasty, nasty.

I am not the first to say that. (Well, I might be if we mean verbatim). I’m just the latest in the long line of protesting voices in an area that’s been under the spotlight on and off since at least 1969, and probably earlier. The public and health professionals routinely condemn the wearing of hospital garb outside the hospitals. Scrubs are the most common complaint, but at least those get regularly laundered (if not used outright as loungewear). Those of us who complain like to point to research that finds that indeed yes, these types clothing — especially student medical coats — are excellent pathogen carriers for things like MRSA. They tend to be washed at best weekly, if not monthly. Sleeves and pockets are hotspots; hospital clothing has been found to be sufficiently contaminated that adding protective layers over top while dealing with patients will cut infection. And this is what this guy thinks is appropriate to wear out to a crowded lunch spot?

That’s the selfish side of things — imaging what he’s wiping around the Flour utensil dispenser as he reaches around for silverware and his sandwiches with those baggy white sleeves. How about what he’s picking up and bringing back? Could he collect outside contaminants and bring them back on that jacket, to hang around until the next time he washes it? Heck, from a sheer courtesy standpoint, will he need to brush the crumbs off his stethoscope before sticking it on the chest of the next guy he treats?

Why would you even want to wear the white coat out and about? They’re not warm. They don’t have the comfort factor of scrubs. They’re not hard to change out of. There’s seriously no good explanation. So Dr. Sandwich-eating-BMC-medical-resident: next time you’re hungry, strip off that friggin’ coat and putting on a street jacket instead. And, by the way, that so goes for you too, Dr. Laboratory- researcher-getting-groceries-at-Shaws.