The White Coat Controversy: Our Take

White Lab Coat Controversy

When we read about The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) guidelines for healthcare workers attire, of course we perked up.  Our business is built upon providing attire for healthcare professionals. The study's intent is described within the study as: prevent transmission of healthcare-associated infections through healthcare personnel (HCP) attire in non-operating room settings.
The post on the SHEA website continues with:
" studies have demonstrated the clothing of healthcare personnel may have a role in transmission of pathogens, the role of clothing in passing infectious pathogens to patients has not yet been well established," said Gonzalo Bearman, MD, MPH, a lead author of the study and member of SHEA's Guidelines Committee. "This document is an effort to analyze the available data, issue reasonable recommendations, define expert consensus, and describe the need for future studies to close the gaps in knowledge on infection prevention as it relates to HCP attire."
Honestly, my initial thought was: What does the white coat have to do with it?  Physicians and medical professionals have to wear something. Whatever that something is can also transmit pathogens, right? My second thought was: All the more reason to purchase more than one lab coat (yes, this can accurately be portrayed as self serving because we are in the lab coat business).

What does the SHEA Study Mean to Medical Professional Attire and its Future?

The way 'information' and misinformation spreads across the internet, I began to be concerned that this study could possibly impact part of our business. Yes, the white lab coat itself has a long history and is indicative of respect, knowledge and singularly stands for the important role medical professionals play in our society. However, it wasn't so very long ago that Physicians wore black; you can see the rabbit hole my mind started to go down. And then I read two blog posts that made it all make sense, and eliminated some of the sensationalism from the study. The first was by Dr. Whitecoat himself, and it carried the title No More Dr. Whitecoat. Within his post Dr. Whitecoat skewers the SHEA study with these  four lines:
The authors repeatedly note that there aren't enough studies to make firm recommendations: “There is a paucity of data on the optimal approach to HCP attire in clinical, nonsurgical areas” “Appropriately designed studies are needed to better define the relationship between HCP attire and HAIs” “No clinical data yet exist to define the impact of HCP apparel on transmission”
After quoting Dr. Whitecoat in a tweet:osler
"But if you don’t have scientific evidence supporting your recommendations, then STOP MAKING THE RECOMMENDATIONS." of our favorite bloggers, Skeptical Scalpel, joined the conversation and pointed us to his January 24th post on the SHEA guidelines. I encourage you to read that post in its entirety, it is a short but straightforward taking apart of a study that makes suggestions, sort of, based on a study that itself admits requires more in depth research. And we echo Skeptical Scalpel's closing question:
 "Why issue guidelines if you have no evidence to base them on?"

Much Ado About Nothing in The White Coat Controversy?

Perhaps calling the SHEA study and its impact a controversy is a stretch, but the fact that it hints at, and then steps away from the idea that a uniform that has become ubiquitous for medical professionals worldwide does cause a bit of concern. And again I come back to my initial thought: What does the white coat have to do with it?  Physicians and medical professionals have to wear something.  Whatever that something is can also transmit pathogens, right? We will continue to watch the fallout from the SHEA study as patiently as possible, and we will continue to recommend that our customers own more than one Medelita Lab Coat and keep them in rotation so as to launder them regularly. After all of this, we can't help but ask the question of our medical professional community:
How would you feel about the demise of the white coat?

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