I have been thinking about what it would feel like to wear a white coat for a long time – almost 11 years. Now that the day is fast approaching, I almost can’t believe it! The closer we are to wearing this white coat, the more I realize the gravity and responsibility we will soon be entrusted with by clinical teams and patients. It’s simultaneously breathtaking and sobering to process what that truly means. Soon, patients will see me wearing a white coat and will see me as their partner in stewarding their health. What an honor and privilege.
I like to think about the growth and life I will experience wearing the white coat. Quite frankly, I will probably experience some of the highest highs and lowest lows of my life during these next four years while wearing this steadfast piece of clothing. I will receive this white coat in the most pristine state it will exist, which I think is reflective of my clinical knowledge – essentially a blank slate. But over the years, as my white coat ages, it will symbolize the experiences and wisdom I have gathered to better serve my patients as a future physician. I cannot wait for my white coat to be lived in.
Incoming First-Year Med Student
I remember when I first received my white coat, I hung it up high on my bedroom wall as if it was a poster from a concert or sporting event. I hung it up so that it would inspire me to strive for the ideals it stood for: knowledge, service, and sacrifice. In the beginning it felt fake and unrealistic. Its meaning was too abstract for me to understand and too difficult to achieve. I couldn’t see myself filling the white coat with the qualities it espoused. But with time, I slowly started to see those virtues growing in me.
I gave up the less important things in my life and focused on my studies above all else. As the months and years passed, my knowledge steadily increased. I stayed late to follow up with my patients, not because I had to but because it was worth the sacrifice to help and serve others. Little by little, I saw the virtues of the white coat and the medical profession reflected in me. Now my white coat isn’t an abstract unachievable ideal, but a daily reminder of who I am and encouragement to continue my journey.
Third-Year Med Student
My white coat has pockets. So many pockets. On rounds, when the team needs a tongue depressor or some gauze, I have it. When anyone needs a pen, there are 5 or 6 scattered somewhere on my person. A reflex hammer. A granola bar. A copy of Pocket Medicine. An iPad. Some crayons. One time a kazoo. I can carry all of this and more with me at any given time. My pockets are often so full that my arms can’t quite rest at my sides. This leads to what I call the med student waddle, which is an awkward near-run (because medical students are always nearly running) with my arms swinging out at an angle almost like I’m hoping to take flight.
My white coat is also meaningful. I hope that it engenders a sense of trust in my patients. I hope that the care and concern that I strive to express to my patients is reinforced by the uniform of our profession. I hope that patients see my white coat as a pledge to always do my best for them. And although I sometimes waddle when I wear it, my white coat lets me carry what I need to best take care of my patients. Anyone need a kazoo?
Fourth-Year Med Student