Medical students' views on the white coat: A south african perspective on ethical issues

Ethics and Behavior 17 (4):387 – 402 (2007)


There is a debate regarding the use of the white coat, a traditional symbol of the medical profession, by students. In a study evaluating final-year South African medical students' perceptions, the white coat was associated with traditional symbolic values (e.g., trust) and had practical uses (e.g., identification). The coat was generally perceived to evoke positive emotions in patients, but some recognized that it may cause anxiety or mistrust. Donning a white coat generally implied a responsibility to the profession. For a few, without the coat, patients would not cooperate, resulting in some perceiving no need to be distinguished from qualified practitioners. There was thus some evidence of entitled (vs. earned) respect. In the light of the underresourced health care setting in which these students learn clinical medicine, we recommend that students be able to recognize the potential for unprofessional or unethical behavior. Students should also be able to identify role models.

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References found in this work

The White Coat Ceremony: A Contemporary Medical Ritual.S. J. Huber - 2003 - Journal of Medical Ethics 29 (6):364-366.
White Coat Ceremonies for New Medical Students.R. Gillon - 2000 - Journal of Medical Ethics 26 (2):83-84.

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