Who Normally Wears A Lab Coat?

Long before the medical doctors used white lab coats, scientists were already wearing it. The scientists wore lab coats to cover their every day street clothes when they were inside the laboratory in order to protect it from any fluids or stains their experiments might make. In the 1800’s, it was believed that scientists were more popular and respected by the people compared to the medical doctors. In order that these doctors would gain the same respect and trust the scientists have and to emphasize the transition to the scientific approach to modern medicine they also took to wearing the white lab coat. It has been said that the length of the lab coat was a symbol of seniority so the longer the lab coat was, the more prominent the doctor. However, some felt that the lab coat has become a barrier to effective communication with their patients and some have shed their white lab coats, in particular the pediatricians and psychiatrists and those in private practices.  

While more physicians continue to wear lab coats a recent study found out that while majority of patients prefer doctors to wear white coats most doctors would rather be in other clothing, like scrubs. Scrubs are the shirts and pants that we used to see on nurses, surgeons and other staff inside the operating room. The use of these cheap scrubs though has been extended outside the OR. Still, there are doctors that wear lab coats over their scrubs when doing their rounds or in consultations. And in other cases, lab coats are actually mandated by their profession or the company, and these are even provided for and care for these lab coats is done by the company assigned laundry service.

Before we go to the different types of lab coats, let us try to find out who are the professionals who wear lab coats for their work. Here are just some of the professionals that normally wear a lab coat:

  • Scientists and Research Scientists
  • Microbiologists
  • Chemists
  • Medical Practitioners:
  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Pharmacists
  • Lab Technicians
  • Veterinarians
  • Electronic Technicians
  • Other health care professionals

In Tunisia, teachers wear lab coats to protect their clothes from chalk while students in Argentina wear lab coat which is a symbol of learning for them. Students also wear lab coats while doing laboratory work for some of their subjects. 

What is a Lab Coat?

When I was growing up I always associated what one person wear with the kind of work they do, or should I say the other way around?

Like, if I see a man in a coverall, I would tell myself that the guy is from sanitation and waste disposal. When I see a man in a lab coat, then I knew for sure that he is definitely a doctor from the hospital. A nurse is always in white. A man in a business suit with an attaché case is a lawyer. The chef has this type of hat that is different from a baker. Well, those were just few of my perceptions then but I guess that fascination with the different apparel each type of work wear is what drove me to work with uniforms.

Over the years I realized that what I thought then is not always and dogmatically true. I mean other work or jobs also make use of coveralls such as mechanics, farm operations, chemical protection and many more. Nurses do not always wear white, these days they are allowed to use other colors. In fact their hospital scrubs are now available in different styles and colors. I even saw a medical uniform in prints that I doubted it was a uniform until I saw the patch pockets. And a medical doctor is not the only one who wears a lab coat.

A lab coat is also worn by a person who works in a laboratory and is actually considered personal protective equipment when working with chemicals and biological. Its function is to protect the skin and clothing from splatter and spills of these harmful materials. In order that the person is protected well by a lab coat, it is important to make sure that the lab coat is fully buttoned with sleeves rolled down. Most of the time, only the hands are not covered but when working with hazardous chemicals these professionals are required to don gloves. And if gloves are worn, the sleeves of the lab coat should be tucked inside the gloves. Also, when working in laboratories, most of these lab coats should also be fire-resistant. A lab coat is required when working in a lab because in case of accidents it is also easier to remove than street clothes to reduce chances of skin getting in contact with the hazardous materials.

A lab coat should only be worn inside the laboratory and should be taken off before going home or even going to other parts of the building. This is especially true when working with hazardous chemicals as this can transfer the materials or worse can contaminate other places or other people. While the lab coat is worn to ward off contamination, the lab coat itself is considered contaminated already. So this should not be included in your own laundry but usually companies provide laundry service to ensure proper care for these lab coats.

When choosing a lab coat, functionality should always be the first basis. That is if the company does not provide the lab coat for its employees.

Next…I will write on the different fabrics, different types of lab coat as well as a list of people who also wear a lab coat at work.