why do scientist wear white lab coats

During the years I was on the road, doing science performances at schools and museums, I could count on being asked that question at least once a week. After all, isn't that the official uniform for all "real" scientists? To understand why not all scientists wear white lab coats, lets start by thinking about why some scientists WOULD wear one. After all, the standard, white, lab coat is not the most stylish outfit, so there must be other reasons. To keep from damaging or staining their clothing. Just as many cooks wear an apron to protect their clothes, scientists who are working with chemicals that are dangerous or that stain usually wear something to protect their clothes.


Often, a lab coat isn't enough. After all, it is just made of cloth. Many scientists also wear an apron, made of material that resists acids, bases, stains, etc. To prevent contamination of their work or equipment. Imagine that you have just enjoyed a chili dog for lunch, and are now back to work on the bacterial cultures you have been carefully growing. As you lean over, a bit of chili falls from your shirt into the culture. There goes all your hard work! Putting on a lab coat as you enter the lab helps prevent that by covering up the clothing you wear outside the lab.


The white color also helps you spot anything you happen to spill while you are in the lab, letting you know it is time for a fresh lab coat. Of course, that doesn't work if what you spill happens to be white. For that reason, some scientists wear light green lab coats, unless they also work with light green chemicals. To prevent contamination from spreading outside the lab. Just as you don't want a bit of chili to fall into a bacterial culture, you don't want to wear a bit of that bacterial culture on your sleeve when you go to lunch. If scientists are working with dangerous chemicals or microbes, they remove their lab coats before they leave the lab.


They also start with a fresh lab coat the next day. Wearing the same, dirty lab coat defeats the purpose. To "look like" a scientist. I put "look like" in quotes because wearing a white, lab coat does not make you a scientist any more than wearing a football jersey makes you a professional quarterback. Still, the news media will often ask scientists to wear a lab coat during an interview for this very reason. My scientific background is in geology, and like many geologists, I rarely had the need to wear a lab coat. The same thing was true through my many years in museum education and as a traveling science educator.


Of course, now that I am producing science videos, there are times when I feel that I need to wear something to make me look more scientific. That is why I have a rabbit costume.
With their scientific bona fides firmly in place, doctors today are divided on the white-coat question. say the coat instills docs with a humbling sense of responsibility and puts patients at ease, while see it as an alienating symbol of medical hubris. More than 100 medical schools host " " where first-year med students are outfitted with shortened versions of the white coat, and the coats are ubiquitous at large teaching hospitals where they help differentiate between doctors and students.


However, doctors in smaller hospitals and private practice are more likely to wear regular clothes. A recent study suggests that only 1 in 8 doctors actually sport a white coat at work. Perhaps the most ardent supporters of the garment are patients: In one study, 56 percent of those surveyed, compared with only 24 percent of doctors. (Elderly people tend to be most supportive of the white coat. ) Another study found that patients were if they were wearing a white coat than if they were in scrubs.