I remember when I first got my white coat as a first year medical student two years ago–it was pristinely white, not wrinkle or stain in sight. It was the symbolic representation of a clean slate, a fresh start, the blank first page of a journal, the start of a career.
Fast forward to the end of my third year of medical school. This white coat has collected ink stains, coffee stains, and stains of unknown origin. It has served as a fill-in for an umbrella on walks home from the hospital. Its pockets have held snacks to fuel me through 24 hour overnight call shifts. It has been my blanket for naps in the library.
Sure the white coat looks nice (I suppose), but its main benefit (in my opinion at least) is its functionality. I can carry an absurd amount of things in these pockets (there are inside pockets too!). Here’s what I kept in my white coat during my Internal Medicine clerkship and why:
- Pens – an absolute must have. Honestly, you would probably be OK if you carry absolutely nothing else in your white coat besides a pen. (Seriously, even a spare stethoscope can be found but extra pens are always hard to come by.) And I always try to keep multiple pens in my coat (and several more in my bag) because somehow pens always go missing….. I also keep a highlighter in case I have journal articles to read or outside records to review.
- Stethoscope – because, you know, it’s probs important to listen to your patients’ hearts, lungs, bellies, etc. (Read: it’s definitely important to listen to your patients’ hearts, lungs, bellies, etc. And it’s embarrassing to get caught without your stethoscope.)
- Maxwell’s – this is a super helpful little guide for pretty much any clinical setting. It has helped me when I needed to calculate a Glasgow Coma Score, or describe which dermatome a shingles rash was affecting, and on countless occasion.
- White Coat clipboard – I love this thing. When on rounds, or in patient rooms, it’s the perfect writing surface to take notes on. The clipboard folds in half, so I keep my patient lists inside and they stay nice and neatly folded, and HIPPA protected! And once it’s folded up, the outside of the clipboard has great reference material. 10/10 recommend.
- iPad mini 4 – I find it helpful to carry this with me because I can pull up UptoDate or PubMed to look up any information relevant to my patients, or research questions that come up during rounds. Even though I also keep my phone in my pocket I think it’s more professional-looking to use a tablet and I avoid my residents/attendings assuming that I am texting friends or browsing Insta. I also use my iPad to access the electronic medical record if I don’t have my own computer to use. And of course I can use it to study/do UWorld practice questions if there is any downtime.
- Journal – I personally find it easier to take handwritten notes than to type on my iPad, so I carry my Moleskine journal to be jot down helpful tips from residents and attendings or take notes in lectures.
- Chapstick/lip balm – last but certainly not least, I keep some type of lip moisturizer on hand. Right now I’m loving the Chapstick Ultimate Hydration, or Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Red Dahlia if I want a subtle pop of color.
Of course from time to time I’ll have a bag of trail mix or a granola bar because ya girl gets hungry lol. But the above items are my usual white coat necessities. Without them, I truly feel naked (and about 5 pounds lighter).
I hope you enjoyed a peek into what is hidden in those mysterious white coat pockets! In the future, I’ll give you the details of what bag I use and what I carry in it, so stay tuned!