Sunday, August 31, 2008

White Coats

My employer just instituted a new dress code policy stating that pharmacists MUST wear their white coats. I know that most of you are saying, "Big deal; I wear a white coat everyday." Well, I don't. In fact, I don't even have to wear a tie to work (and even with the new dress code, I still don't). Our dress code has always been very casual. As long as you looked professional (button down shirt, no jeans), you were fine.

I don't know how others feel about this, but I absolutely hate the white coat. The only good thing about them is that they have pockets to hold your pens. Otherwise, they get dirty, especially the sleeves which get covered in black dust which must come from the toner in the laser jet printer. They're also pretty restrictive. You don't have as much range of motion in your arms unless you get a coat that's a little too big for you, and then you feel like you're swimming in it. I get hot wearing the coat. Finally, since I'm constantly hurrying from one side of the pharmacy to the other, I tend to get the pockets of the white coat stuck on corners, especially the corners of the bins. Maybe the best reason not to wear the stupid coat is that I firmly believe we look better without them, or at the very least, I certainly do. I feel like I dress pretty well. I'm thin. The coat makes me look bulky and overly nerdy.

I feel that the time of the white coat has passed. At this point, it's only a symbol of status. It's designed to tell people that we're medical professionals because we wear a white coat. Since most of us are no longer compounding prescriptions on a regular basis, we're not using them to shield our clothing from aquaphor or coal tar. They no longer serve a practical purpose.

I love the casual dress code. I think it allows me to look professional while still appearing approachable. I think this look encourages customers to ask questions because I don't look as intimidating as someone in a white coat.

In any case... I'm currently rebelling against the new dress code. I've decided that I will not don my white coat until someone threatens me with some kind of punishment. I'm not about to lose my job over a stupid coat, but I want to see just how far I can push this thing. I get to work early every day. I never call out sick. I work hard. My coworkers like me. Our customers like me. I dress well. Surely, my employer wouldn't fire me over refusing to wear a stupid white coat.... at least I would hope so. With so many piss poor pharmacists out there, there's no way they can justify doing anything to me over it.


Eric, AKA CubsterSEA said...

Leaving aside the issues around telling someone with a pretty decent degree how to dress for work...(and I'm with you 100% on that one)...

You need a tailor. Not the alterations chick at Macy's. An actual honest-to-god tailor who can take a decent white coat and make it fit *you*. You're going to pay something for the privilege - I'd guess around $50 given that the coats are unlined and there's not shoulder pads and stuff to drive the labor higher, but it's going to be the smartest money you've ever spent. I know a certain dermatologist who looks positively dashing in his white coat, and the secret is tailoring - he's schlumpy, but the coat is fitted a bit closer to the body, the sleeves are the right length, etc.

Everything you mention is a symptom of something that is your correct gross size but that isn't built to fit *you* (I wager that many people wearing white coats are broader in the butt than you are, for example).

So, fight the power, but if you do have to take it like a bar girl in Subic, at least let a talented professional make you look less like you're wearing a smock.


pharmacy chick said...

as the wearer of the white coat for 21 years, I see both sides of it. I wish I could wear more casual clothing. But at least you can wear casual clothes under the coat. My dress code is even more restrictive: White shirt, White coat, Black or blue pants. End of discussion. You'd probably get used to the coat, not every pocket has to snag on things if it fits right. I like having my pens in my pocket. I actually use a zip up (barber style) and it has short sleeve, it stays pretty clean. Somebody at corporate is flexing his muscles. The thing is, the coat does make you look more professional, it also makes you IDENTIFIABLE as the pharmacist, just as the blue coats identify the techs. I dont think you are intimidating with a white coat on nor do I think you are any less approachable. I don't know what they can do to you for not wearing your coat. I had a pharmacist friend who wore a goatee. His company forbade facial hair. He didn't care and disregarded it, after all they hired him looking the same way. They never did anything about it.

Pharmacy Mike said...

As far as being identifiable... The techs and pharmacists all wear the same white coat. There's no color coding at all, so customers don't the know the difference from looking at us.

In fact, by not wearing a coat, I distinguish myself more because I'm the only one without one.

MrHunnybun said...

I feel your pain. I used to work for a company that insisted on white coats (well, I used to put it on when the manager was around, then hide it when she wasn't). Always the same reason, "to identify you as the pharmacist"

I've never haad a problem spottin gpharmacists in a pharmacy. They are the ones looking stressed, running around like idiots (and driving sports cars)

Then again I also worked for a company that made us wear white shirts with "PHARMACIST" printed on the breast pocket in big letters. YOu really do feel a fool walking around town in one of those!

I always felt like i should be working in an ice-cream parlour when wearing a white coat. If people liek them then okay, that's cool but I'd leave it to each individual to choose

Anonymous said...

i pity the fool that thinks like you

rphgirl said...

My company doesn't require our pharmacists to wear white coats, and none of them actually wear it. We recently had one floater compounding tech from California who thought so high of himself. He was wearing a white coat at all times when he wasn't compounding, and at beginning I just assumed that he was a pharmacist. He probably imagined himself as some kind of doctor or a pharmacist, lol.

Anonymous said...

Good luck with your silent rebellion. They won't fire you but they will probably just make it a headache for you every time they come in. At least that is what my company does.

Erin said...

I hate my white coat too! Not only is it restictive, but I hate dirty white. I get mistaken for the doctors (which is no fun when you work ER), and I get too hot when running around like a nut.

Anonymous said...

This is not a new issue. You are correct, people will be much less
willing to ask questions or interupt when you are wearing a white coat. I did an informal test about 25 years ago. I found that when I wore a white coat the customers would rarely bother me. When I dressed nice/casual they were very willing to ask questions.
Sometimes this is inconveinent but I much prefer my customers feeling they have access to me at any time.
signed-the country druggist

Anonymous said...

The main thing about the white coat is that it gets dirty real quick, and continues to look dirty in the sleeves and front collar area no matter how many times it's washed. The unfitted white jackets have sleeves that get caught and ripped or dirty, and pockets tend to propel calculators into the toilet when bending over, (and, the get pretty warm0. In various jobs it sometimes doesn't really do that much for making one distinguishable as the 'person in charge' because techs and other nursing personnel are allowed to wear white.

Anonymous said...

I work in a corporation which is also flexing its muscles with regard to its dress code, similar to Pharmacy Chicks.

I disregard it entirely. I've worked here 10 years and won't go out and buy white shirts (I'm a woman and WILL NOT wear a man's shirt unless it is in a very personal and intimate situation of my choosing - NOT at work!!!!). There are also very few white blouses around that look at all attractive.

Thus, I've never bought into their dress code, but I do wear the white coat. I need it for pens, notes, business cards, lipstick, etc...& it keeps my non-white clothes clean.

Fortuantely, I have a DM that overlooks such nonsense. Men, of course can look nice, attractive and professional with a white shirt & tie. It just makes women look dorky. I'm always dressed nice, professional & attractiive & so far they seem to want my mind more than my non-existent white blouse/shirt & black pants and they turn a blind eye as well.

Hang it there - whats the worst that can happen? They ask where is your white coat? You tell them it was stained with promtheazine w/codeine & you have to go out & replace it on your day off. Problem solved!

Ashley said...

I love how you say the coat makes you look, "overly nerdy."

It says, 'I'm a nerd, but I'm not THAT kind of nerd that has to make it obvious that I'm probably smarter than you.'