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Why I'm campaigning to bring back the white coat

"I knew, hidden somewhere in the pharmacy, there was a white lab coat."

C+D's clinical editor asks if the iconic piece of pharmacy fashion deserves a comeback

Working in the pharmacy this winter has been a tough experience. I've felt like I’m re-enacting a scene from a Dickensian novel, hoping more coal would be tossed on the fire to bring some warmth to my shivering body.

As I sat there and looked around, I noticed one dispenser was wearing a scarf and fingerless gloves, while another welcomed the manual labour of putting away medicines from the morning’s order. I – being the classic Scrooge – checked the prescriptions near the only fire (well, the electric heater).

I longed for an additional layer that would keep me warm, but still maintain my professional appearance. I guess I could have put on my coat, but it doesn’t look smart and would inevitably lead to patients asking the questions: “Where you off to?” “Are you only in now?” Or my favourite: “Are you trying to escape, again?” So I sat there stoically, acting like the cold didn’t bother me.

I knew, hidden somewhere in the pharmacy, there was a white lab coat – a remnant of a bygone era of extemporaneous dispensing – that would keep me warm. I don’t remember the time when pharmacists graced our high streets with these alabaster capes, but it was once the norm.

I started thinking, why don’t we wear lab coats like our European counterparts? After all, it is a requirement when studying pharmacy to buy one to use for many of your practical classes.

Maybe it's because of ‘white coat syndrome’ – the phenomenon that causes raised blood pressures in some patients when speaking to certain healthcare professionals. Or perhaps it's an attempt to make the pharmacist appear more approachable to patients.

Either way, the gleaming white of the community pharmacy lab coat has left us. However, I propose we bring it back.

In an effort to convince you, I have prepared a short list of reasons why the lab coat should return:

  1. Winter = cold. Lab coat = warmer.
  2. No more confusion about who the pharmacist is.
  3. It would act as a uniform, meaning I wouldn’t need to spend those valuable minutes each morning deciding on that winning combination of shirt and tie.
  4. If I spill soup on my shirt at lunchtime, I could cover it up with my lab coat.
  5. It looks more clinical, resonating with the image we are trying to convey to the public.
  6. Chances are you already own one (thanks to university), so why let it go to waste? 

So what do you say fellow pharmacists, will you join me in the lab coat revival? If you're on board, tweet your lab coat pictures to @CandDKristoffer using the hashtag #WhiteCoat

Kristoffer Stewart is C+D's CPD and clinical editor, and a practising locum pharmacist. 


P M, Community pharmacist


William Johnson,

I always used to wear a white dental type jacket and give the finished item to the patient myself. Nowadays when I go in a pharmacy I have no idea which person is the pharmacist.

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Why not bring back some other old pharmacy traditions of the past while we're at it? Like proper pay and a lunch break!

Andy Krestoff, Locum pharmacist

or leeches!

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

They're called 'Area Managers' these days!

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Brings back memories of chemistry lab in uni.Could never get the smell of clove oil out of mine.

Paul Dishman, Pharmaceutical Adviser

You really need to wear a tie if you're going to wear a white coat, otherwise you just end up looking like a scruffy student

Mark Ashmore, Superintendent Pharmacist

Men and Women ?

Robin Conibere, Primary care pharmacist

1) You need a haircut @Kris
3) They don't make you look clinical, but like a butcher
White coats should be consigned to the NHS tip along with the the awful fax machine! 

Jenny Etches, Community pharmacist

I'm old enough to be part of the generation that wore white coats and jolly useful they were too: covered up many sartorial sins and lots of pockets for pens and sweeties. I also belong to the generation that used to smoke on the dispensary (I didn't but knew plenty who did) so not everything was great back then. 

Frustrated Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

I want one of these...

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

Point 8 - my missus likes me in a white coat......

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

Just thinking of Kristoffer's earlier posts - how will you hide the methadone stains? Those buggers just will not come out!

Kristoffer Stewart, Editorial

I have received a few messages saying I am missing one of the most vital points of wearing a white coat in the pharmacy...the pockets. So that can be a bonus seventh point.

Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

Why not go a step further? How about a proper Pharmacist uniform? 

Could I suggest a unisex boiler suit design made of haircloth or similar? Broad horizontal stripes of green and white with the individual’s GPhC number displayed prominently back and front.

On the rear a panel displaying “How is my dispensing?” with a GPhC hotline number below. For those Pharmacists working for the Multiples there would be a further front panel displaying this weeks BOGOF offers in store.

Just a thought…..


Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

...and with pockets.

Job of the week

Pharmacist / Manager
Doncaster, South Yorkshire
To be negotiated + benefits