Short Coats - how common?

I’m curious how many schools require their med students to wear the short coat? I’m not required to do so, so I wear a long coat.
I regard the short coat as one of feudal customs of medicine, like the customary abusive treatment of residents. Our own scarlet letter, the short coat seems to exist just to remind students of their lowly status in a very hierarchy-aware environment. Don’t get me wrong, the existence of medical hierarchy is certainly necessary. I am very respectful of the residents and attendings I work with, much more so than the child-doctors who can be astounding rude and self-absorbed at times.
I’ve heard that Brigham-Women’s (Harvard) requires their RESIDENTS to wear short coats. Any truth to this?

I’ve never been at the Brigham but at MGH across town, the residents and students all wear short coats. The fellows wear long coats. The junior faculty wear long coats. But the really dope senior docs–the old surgeons and grand old men of medicine–often wear short coats. Or no coats at all. (Bow ties are big around the MGH.)
I used to feel as you do, but I’ve come to think that the short coat thing is fine: it is a little cue to tell patients who is a doctor in training. I think if anything the cue should be more obvious–maybe stripes on the arm or something! (No, not really.)

Last year, the OSA secretary was new and ordered the wrong coats for our class. These coats were mid-length, coming to about mid-thigh on me at 5’6". There was a BIG stink about these coats over in the hospital. Unfortunately, instead of the attendings and residents venting their displeasure with OSA and the medical school, they just did what is typical in medicine and gave the powerless students an earful. Consequently, a large part of my class, including me, went out and bought new correct short coats out of our own pockets just to make our lives easier.

As a KCOM alumni & having worked directly w/ students from both MSU’s MD & DO schools and now Dartmouth students - all four of these institutions require students to wear the short-white coat. Personally, when I was a student, I never perceived it as punitive or demeaning to wear a short coat. Yes, it designated me as a student, more for the other staff than for the patients who generally did not know the difference. Be marked as a student is not bad, it projects your rank…just as rank insignias/icosn do in the military. This is not always a bad thing. In fact, it can preclude you from being thrust into a situation where you are not capable of making the decisions that need to be made protecting not only you; but also & more importantly, the patients. Even though I am not a proponent of rigidly enforced hierarchies, anyone who knows me knows that I am bit of a maverick, I perceive definite value & protection for outward display of position w/i the hierarchy that is medicine.
Eventually, most of you who wear the short-coat will be able to trade it in for a long-coat. It is an incredible feeling donning one for the first time to trundle off to work. However, the feeling of “I worked damned hard & deserve this long-coat” quickly changes as the full-force of the responsibilities that accompany your change in wardrobe begin to set in. That first call of “Mr. XXX in 501 is diaphoretic, tachypnic, having chest pain and his sats are down” will thrust that reality upon you mega-quick. At that point, slipping back into a short-coat is no longer an option.
So, enjoy the role of the short-coat while you can. Right now, your only true responsibility is to learn. Yes, you may be assigned a “load” of tasks to fulfill for the intern or the resident or the attending; however, you are still just feigning responsibility…for a great purpose (it is great practice & fun). But the gravity of the transition to long-coat does not hit you until your first call & you realize you are all alone (or so it feels) and it is YOU who must make the call - do or do not.
It is wonderful & it is challenging…just like Mom used always caution: “Learn to walk before you try to run”.

Hi there,
I wore a short white coat as a medical student that was given to me during my orientation in our Short White Coat Ceremony. In fact, it was Ben Carson, MD, pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins who put my short white coat on my back, shook my hand and welcomed my to the medical profession.
It isn’t the length of the coat that makes the physician. I often round in a sweat shirt and scrubs. No one has any problem figuring out that I am the physician and no one has any problems figuring out that I am the surgeon.
On Match Day, we received long white goats in our Long White Coat Ceremony. It was Dr. LaSalle LeFalle, Jr. former president of the American College of Surgeons who placed my long white coat on my back and welcomed me to the world of medicine. Since my long white coat says, Natalie J. Belle,MD, PhD. Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care, I don’t wear that one either.

Although the shadowy tradition of the “clerk’s coat” (short coat) may be to impress upon the student that s/he is dog meat, I did not ever get treated in a demeaning way or treated as anything but a full-fledged member of my team while I was wearing my short coat, and consequently, I do not see any point in rebelling against a symbolism that doesn’t seem to apply.
I agree with Joe that it is helpful for the “players” to have this scorecard. I found it especially helpful as I could otherwise easily be mistaken for the attending due to my age. Instead I could smile, shrug and say, “Sorry, I can’t write that order but I’ll speak to my resident.” (Yesterday entering my graduation ceremony I was directed to the faculty entrance and the ushers really didn’t seem to want to believe that I was actually part of the graduating class, well, sorry!)
I do think that as students we invest a lot of our own insecurities in those coats, and may project that others are “looking down” on us… part of the “I’m just a student” (said apologetically) syndrome. However, I never felt that residents looked on me as an idiot or a target for oppression or hostility. A burden to teach, perhaps, but it was always stressed to us that we were valuable members of the team and that our observations and plans for our patients were important contributions.
In the hospitals I’ve worked at here in the Washington DC area, the traditional student=short, intern/ resident/ attending = long seems to apply. I did see a med student in a long coat once but it was his lab coat for bench research, and the sentiment still seemed to be that when he wore it outside of the lab he looked like a tool.
By the middle of this year, I really really hated putting on my short white coat, not because I felt in any way like a second-class citizen, but because I felt I had achieved a level of competence that wasn’t adequately represented by the short white coat - in short, I felt ready to take on an intern’s responsibilities and chafed somewhat at having to continue to assume the medical student role. (I also thought the short coat was silly-looking and unflattering, hitting me right across the broadest part of my butt.)
I won’t get my long white coat until my orientation next month. As Dave said, I’m sure it’ll feel great to wear at orientation when I am strutting around the hospital NOT yet connected to the pager system! But then the responsibility symbolized by that coat will take over and ya know, if you think about it, the long white coat can certainly be seen as an oppressive symbol, too - like the pager, which is just an electronic leash.

By the way, I skipped my school’s tradition of burning our short-coats en masse & kept it. Many years of dedication, blood, sweat & tears went into earning the right to wear it. Plus, I think my daughter might just be damned cute playing dress-up in it!

At UNECOM - we were issued 2 white coats at our white coat ceremony. We were required to wear them during clinic days the first two years. It was also standard wear in third year, but in fact it has varied depending on the rotation. Surgery issued us a “long coat” for the duration.
Yes, there were status and egos involved, and some of the surgeons (esp residents) tended to look down on “the short coats” In fact, mostly i don’t even think about it anymore, its mostly just a set of pockets that I can throw on as I stagger out the door at 6:00. Minimal thinking, my PDA, Maxwells, stethescope, etc. are there. I start to feel like the mix of stains make me feel like a veteran.
oh – those surgery coats? – didn’t like um… the pockets were too small.
Steve Y –
3rd year at 48 – an true olde pharte doc wanna be


In fact, mostly i don’t even think about it anymore, its mostly just a set of pockets that I can throw on as I stagger out the door at 6:00.

You weren’t walking out the door until SIX AM??? Wow. On my surgery rotation I had already seen two patients by 6am some days. And OB/Gyn… well, let’s just not go there. Because it was my last third-year rotation and it was clear early on that I was going to get yelled at no matter what I did or didn’t do, I made it a personal policy that I would not set my alarm earlier than 4am, even if I had to get up, shower, bolt breakfast and be pre-rounding at 445am. I also made it a personal policy that I would not wake a patient up earlier than 530.
my first month as an intern is on the medicine service, can you see me dancing from here? Rounds starting at 830am, yippeeeeeeee I’ll be able to get breakfast! Here is Natalie’s opening to retort “but you’ll still be rounding after lunch!” and I know it’s true.
Steve, you olde pharte, congratulations on getting through third year! It’s all a glide from here on out, baby!

I’ve been meaning to find someone who goes to UNECOM to talk to. I have yet to take the MCAT (registering for Aug), possibly take a couple upper-level bio courses, and tackle the application process.
UNECOM is one of the DO schools I’d like to apply to. How do you like it? How are the classes? The students - maturity level, interesting, competitiveness, etc… The professors and lecturers? I’d love to hear your story and general impression.
Thank you!


By the way, I skipped my school’s tradition of burning our short-coats en masse

They burn them? Sacrelige! Geez, I’m still at the tears-welling-up stage when I think about my white coat ceremony.