Should doctors wear white coats?
- Department of Thoracic Medicine, Royal Free Hospital NHS Trust, Royal Free and UCL Medical School, London, UK
- Correspondence to: Dr K Dheda Department of Thoracic Medicine, Infection and Immunity, Royal Free Hospital, Royal Free and UCL Medical School, London NW3 2QG, UK;
- Received 22 November 2003
- Accepted 18 January 2004
Objective: To compare the views of doctors and patients on whether doctors should wear white coats and to determine what shapes their views.
Methods: A questionnaire study of 400 patients and 86 doctors was performed.
Results: All 86 of the doctors’ questionnaires were included in the analysis but only 276 of the patients were able to complete a questionnaire. Significantly more patients (56%) compared with their doctors (24%) felt that doctors should wear white coats (p<0.001). Only age (>70 years) (p<0.001) and those patients whose doctors actually wore white coats (p<0.001) were predictive of whether patients favoured white coats. The most common reason given by patients was for easy identification (54%). Less than 1% of patients believed that white coats spread infection.
Only 13% of doctors wore white coats as they were felt to be an infection risk (70%) or uncomfortable (60%). There was no significant difference between doctor subgroups when age, sex, grade, and specialty were analysed.
Conclusion: In contrast to doctors, who view white coats as an infection risk, most patients, and especially those older than 70 years, feel that doctors should wear them for easy identification. Further studies are needed to assess whether this affects patients’ perceived quality of care and whether patient education will alter this view.