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At work blog



Pining for a white coat

I miss my white coat. It must be 10 years since I last wore it. I miss it, not just because it protected my clothes and kept me warm, but mostly because without it I had nowhere to put my belongings.

I used to achieve a sort of symmetry by placing my cheese-and-onion coloured Oxford Handbook in one pocket and my BNF in the other and then balance out the remaining things between the two of them.

Once my white coat became redundant, (who wears one as a casualty officer anyway?) and subsequently banned, I needed another solution.

I found myself a washable cross-body handbag — this was fine on the wards, but didn’t look smart enough for clinics. You always hear stories about other people’s stuff going missing and I didn't want to take any chances with mine.

One of my friends used to clip her bank card to the back of her trust ID badge, which sounds fine in theory, but my ID badge kept falling off and, while I have always managed to get it back, I wouldn’t be certain that someone would be so willing to return my debit card.

One solution would be to have a secure locker. But is there any hospital trust that can provide this for its entire staff? And I need my phone on me, because this is how switchboard would call me about a referral or how my children’s nursery would get in touch if there was a problem. Offices, desks in offices and clinic rooms are not safe — 'don’t leave anything unattended', I tell my patients.

When I became self-conscious about my handbag, I tried my holiday-money belt slipped underneath my clothing. You couldn’t wear anything too tight with this option because you would get a purse-shaped lump under your top. This was secure, but made me look like I was pregnant. And then I really was pregnant and the money belt didn’t fit any more.

The size of my gadgets is another problem. Mobile phones started off huge, became tiny for a while, but have expanded again as they take on every function known to Apple. And my car key doesn’t look like a car key anymore; it’s approaching the size of a small mobile phone.

So, given the size of my gadgets and the necessity to have them on my person at all times, I bought myself another smaller, smarter handbag. But even this is not ideal and all my car-parking change makes my purse bulky and heavy. Stuff in a couple of Biros and a pen torch and the stitches on the little bag start to come undone.

Perhaps they would let me have my white coat back again if I cut the sleeves off or rolled them up above the elbow so that I comply with infection control.

Susannah George is a specialty trainee 4 from Brighton