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Why do Doctors wear white? It’s history; The pros and cons of white coats for Doctors.

Why Do Doctors Wear White Coats?

The white lab coat worn by doctors is perhaps the most symbolic element in the medical world. But, have you ever stopped to consider the reason why healthcare experts choose to dress in white? Why are their coats only white? What is the exact history behind it?

Let’s find out today in our article.

History Behind The White Coats

You might be surprised to learn that historically, and up until the late 19th century, doctors only wore black; they never wore any white. The black clothing worn by doctors in the past served a number of practical purposes, including masking soiled clothing and all of the messy stains associated with their line of work, in addition to signifying their sombre, serious presence—which, let’s face it, was typically associated with death.

Did you know that doctors have adapted the lab scientists' white coats?

Before the middle of the nineteenth century, only scientists who worked in laboratories wore light pink or yellow lab coats. Laboratory researchers had at the time damaged the standing of doctors by demonstrating the futility of the drug-assisted treatment, leading to the doctors’ conviction.

While doctors or physicians were not widely trusted at the time, scientists were praised by the public and by the ruling class. The medical field then turned to science. As a result, the medical professionals made the decision to study science.

After all, it was later believed that inventions created in laboratories could successfully provide a cure for diseases. Because doctors wanted to present themselves as scientists, they adopted the scientific lab coat as the norm for their attire.

As a result, doctors started donning the coat as a distinctive symbol in 1889 AD. When the lab coat was adopted by the medical community, they preferred a white coat. Dr .George Armstrong (1855–1933), a surgeon at the Montreal General Hospital and the president of the Canadian Medical Association, also introduced the modern white coat to medicine in Canada.

After all, why was white the only colour used for coats?

White has been chosen as the new norm for the medical industry for good reason. The commitment made by the doctor to do no harm is demonstrated by this colour, which stands for purity. White also symbolises goodness. White conveys purity and also denotes a serious intent, the purging of infection, etc.

Why Do Doctors Wear White Coats ?

The major purpose of wearing white coats for doctors is to be more visible to patients and other professionals. The custom started in the late 1800s when trained surgeons started donning white lab coats to set themselves apart from shady medical professionals who tried to sell miracle cures and didn’t adhere to conventional, evidence-based medicine. Soon after, physicians started following suit.

Nowadays, the justifications range from a sign of professionalism, integrity, and the greatest dedication to helping the sick and suffering.

It begins almost immediately after a student receives their medical school diploma because nearly all medical schools hold a “white coat ceremony,” which marks the transition from being a student to becoming a doctor.

What do patients think of it?

The University of Michigan researchers found that a doctor’s attire influences how patients view their doctor and their overall satisfaction with their care after surveying 4,000 patients at 10 academic medical centres in the United States. However, what is worn beneath the coat is just as important as the coat itself when considering attire.

Patients perceived medical professionals as more knowledgeable, dependable, caring, and approachable when they were dressed in a white coat rather than business attire. Older patients over the age of 65 are even more likely to hold this viewpoint. Patients’ approval and satisfaction were highest among doctors who were dressed in scrubs underneath their white coats. Doctors who only wore professional clothing and no white coat came in third in the study.

Are white coats for all doctors?

A white coat is not necessarily mandatory for all doctors and physicians. For example, psychiatrists and paediatricians say they prefer professional attire to put their patients at ease. As many as 30% of patients experience high blood pressure due to the century-old “white coat syndrome,” which was first identified in 1896. Though it might appear unimportant at first, research shows that “white coat syndrome” can be very serious.

According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, patients with white coat syndrome and high blood pressure have a twofold higher risk of dying than those with white coat syndrome and normal blood pressure. Aside from the risk of infection transmission or out of concern for patients who might have a real phobia, some doctors might decide not to wear a white coat out of comfort.

The Pros And Cons Of White Coats For Doctors

These are some of the pros based on an internal survey on physicians who wear white coats:

– Patients, nurses, and other doctors can quickly identify a doctor in a white coat.

– Large pockets in the white coat make it easy to carry a stethoscope and other items.

– Adhering to social standards for physicians.

– Guard against infection from patients and the environment.

– It conveys a sense of cleanliness.

– Shield patients from contamination by oneself.

– The white coat aids in regulating body temperature in the chilly hospital setting.

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The cons is that, According to another study, 82% of paediatricians or psychiatrists dislike dressing professionally in a white coat because they believe it hinders communication with young patients and those who are mentally ill.


So, now we know why doctors started to wear white lab coats. Also, how it started and the significance behind it. Here are some most frequently asked questions regarding this topic on google, answered for you guys here.


White coats are worn by doctors because they represent cleanliness and health. White clothing is preferred because it shows stains and may indicate when you should change your clothes as soon as they become stained. The patient benefits more from frequent changing.
Healthcare-associated infections were on the rise more than ten years ago, and the government was under pressure to take action. Therefore, the final white coats were withdrawn in 2007 and a new policy on “bare below the elbow” was implemented. They were described as “an infection risk.” The claim was that most doctors waited till their white coated were filled with dirt ang organic matter before giving it to laundry.
White coats are typically worn to make it simple for co-workers and patients to recognise you, to store things in the pockets, and to keep clothes clean.
The doctor’s white coat will guarantee that they always maintain a sterile and clean environment. Judges and Lawyers have worn black robes since a 17th-century British custom as the colour black is viewed as a representation of honour, wisdom, and justice.
To Prevent their Own and Patient Contamination
Yes. White coats are preferred by most of the patients as, they help patients feel more at ease and confident in them.
No. Today even lab technicians are wearing white lab coats.