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:
- Winter = cold. Lab coat = warmer.
- No more confusion about who the pharmacist is.
- 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.
- If I spill soup on my shirt at lunchtime, I could cover it up with my lab coat.
- It looks more clinical, resonating with the image we are trying to convey to the public.
- 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.