White Coat: Walking Office, Washed Frequently

I’ve entered my third year of wearing white coats. You read that right – I have two white coats: one to wear while I wash, starch, and press the other. Since receiving my first white coat in the summer of 2012, I’ve grown more familiar with its wearing and ways. I’ve known a long time about the importance of keeping my white coat clean and proud-looking. I quickly learned about the expectations patients have of people in white coats. This year, I’ve grown more practical awareness and appreciation for my white coat: it holds everything I need. Literally. In its pockets, my white coat holds the difference between my having a great day or a giant struggle of a day.

Not certain if you’ve noticed, but white coats have a lot of pockets. Some older physicians pride themselves in carrying as little as possible. You can usually spot students and newer residents by their overflowing pockets. I know it will change, but I wanted to give you a snapshot of what I carry around every day. In a lull between afternoon procedures (on my 6 week Internal Medicine rotation), I emptied everything from my white coat pockets and photographed the contents.

My white coat contents

My white coat contents

  • 5th Edition Sabatine’s Pocket Medicine –The Internal Medicine Department lends rotating students this text. Within a week I ordered my own. I wouldn’t study for exams from this text, but it helps me organize and develop plans of action for patients I visit each day. Decisions are made by residents and physicians, but I learn from trying to formulate my own treatment ideas (and comparing with what actually happens).
  • 6th Edition Dubin’s Rapid Interpretation of EKGs –The Internal Medicine Department lends rotating students a different text, but I already owned and liked this text. I’m reading both lately, reviewing and practicing systematic EKG interpretation this week on “Cards” (CTS aka Cardiology Teaching Service – a consulting specialist rotation in the 6 weeks of Internal Medicine).
  • 6th Edition Maxwell’s Quick Medical Reference – Relied on for quick vision checks so far. I think this looks cool (in a dork way) stored in my left breast pocket. Communicates my seriousness about the physical exam.
  • Penlight – Using this to check pupils when I can’t find another light fast enough.
  • Pilot G-2 0.38 ballpoint pens (blue, black) – Other med school peers have remarked about my small handwriting. When I got to this Internal Medicine rotation, I felt like I was writing H&Ps (history and physical notes) with crayons until I discovered the secret weapon of 0.38 ballpoints.
  • Stethoscope – Used multiple times every day. (To auscultate and as a makeshift reflex hammer.)
  • Alcohol prep wipes – To wipe down & disinfect my stethoscope between patients.
Another pocket's contents

Another pocket’s contents

  • Jump drive – Stores templates and study handouts for quick reference.
  • Folding Clipboard (shown folded/closed) – Stores paper notes for on the spot reviews. Rarely do I take time to open this and bear down. I use it folded as an on the fly writing surface.
  • Extra hair tie – Just in case. Never know when mine might break. Don’t want to be miserable or hot (with hair stuck down, without option to pull it back) throughout the rest of my day.
    ID Badge – Required to go nearly everywhere in the hospital.
  • Radiation badge – Required to go into areas with radiation (typically where some kind of procedure is going on or where some kind of radiological images are being made).
  • Extra highlighters, pens – These accumulated in my pocket. I give these to people if they lose their pen. They are cheaper than 0.38 ballpoints, so I am fine to part with them permanently.
  • Paperwork – Antibiotic susceptibility guide from the pharmacy, primary literature pertaining to patient ailments, lists of patients to visit for the day, notes on clinical progress of patients, study handouts/references, etc. This changes on a daily basis, but papers I need to reference faster tend to be folded longways (“hotdog style”) while those papers acceptable to access in a leisurely way tend to be folded short-end to short end (“hamburger style”). Folding helps me grope blindly into my pockets and produce pertinent paperwork faster.

Not Pictured

  • Gum/mints – Polished off my last pack before taking pics. These, along with frequent tooth brushing, are third year necessities. Patients are already feeling bad. They don’t need to be interviewed and examined by clinicians with stank breath.
  • Hospital Smart Phone – Used to page me. Also used to take these pics.
  • Call Room Key – Used to access a “call room” with bathroom and bunks when I am “on call,” staying overnight at the hospital helping admit patients.
  • Stomach Ball – To show patients average newborn belly size (to help gauge feeding needs).
  • Travel Aleve – For me to use as needed, if I have a headache or blisters from walking around.
  • iPad – Brought on occasion when I have more time to sit and peruse textbooks. For the most part, I use my iPhone to look up similar information. It’s useful to keep iPad around, because many physicians assume more legitimate uses of iPads. (I avoid using my iPhone to look up information around some doctors – some assume students are texting or Facebooking when using phones. I don’t want to communicate disinterest or distraction, so I use iPad or paper reference texts if I get the slightest sense phone textbooks or apps might be unwelcome.)
  • Smaller sketchbook with notes, diagrams – Haven’t had time to use this lately, but it can be a great way to consolidate notes on exam topics.

That’s just to give a general idea of what I drag around the hospital in my white coat pockets daily. Certainly, this list will grow and change as my needs necessitate different tools and as my memory grows to contain more of the material referenced on a daily basis. Below is the list of tools and/or reference material I am still on the lookout for (on sale, or perhaps being discarded by a physician or resident upgrading or spring cleaning out of their own pockets).

In Search Of

  • Tuning Fork
  • Manual BP cuff
  • EKG Calipers
  • Reflex Hammer
  • Pregnancy Due Date Calculation Wheel
  • Stethoscope holster
  • Other recommendations?



Jennifer Reinovsky

Jennifer Reinovsky

I am a nontraditional student from neighboring Pickens County. I fully realized my passion for medicine after graduating from Furman University in Greenville, SC, and exploring other career options. I hope for gracious clarity and surplus autotelic activity. I love tea, cooking, writing, reading, swimming, and hiking. I am not certain what kind of physician I should be, but I look forward to the process of discovery here at USC School of Medicine Greenville.


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