What’s in your scrubs pockets?


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Scrubs today are a lot more fashionable than in olden days, but you’re not exactly going to go to work in a pair of Manolo Blahniks. (At least we hope not!) One thing we know about our scrubs: Every element counts, down to the length of the jacket and the size of the pockets.

In this edition of “He Said/She Said,” Dr. Brady Pregerson and Nurse Rebekah Child talk about The Perils of Beauty in healthcare fashion and function.

Nurse Rebekah: So this month’s edition of “He Said/She Said” is all about fashion…kind of.

I remember reading an article once that discussed the length and weight of doctors’ white coats. The longer and lighter your coat was (fewer books in the pockets = lighter coat), the higher up on the physician food chain you were. Many police officers sustain workers-comp injuries from their gun belts; the belts are so heavy, it throws their backs out.

I wonder if the same couldn’t be argued for medical students and first-year residents. Unfortunately, they aren’t allowed to take sick days to figure out if all the reference texts weighing down their coats are the cause of their sciatica. I still can’t figure out why they haven’t put all those books on a PDA application by now [editor’s note: there are some very helpful iPhone apps]. Maybe the books are just old-school security blankets. As for the attending’s empty pockets, some hypothesize that their wizened experience means they have all these facts memorized by now; others would say they have mastered the art of delegation.

Dr. Brady: I’m no fashion prince—just ask my wife—but I do try to don acceptable, if not respectable, attire. I gave up scrub pants a long time ago so I could wear something with more pockets.

Now I mostly use scrub pants for rock climbing at the indoor gym; they’re perfect because they’re light and cover my knees, which otherwise sometimes get scraped. I used to wear a scrub top, but gave that up when my director kept noticing that I was “untucked.” Let me tell you, when you’re 6’4”  it’s hard to keep your shirt tucked in at work; shirts just aren’t long enough.

I still haven’t taken to wearing a tie at work. There’s a fomite that never gets washed. Plus, I don’t want a homicidal schizophrenic to be able to grab onto a slipknot around my neck.

Although pocket books and other medical references might not be considered part of a doctor’s “fashion statement” by many, Rebekah has a good point. The lack of additional white-coat real estate is actually one of the first things you notice in someone whose pockets are brimming over. Many doctors (and nurses) opt for PDAs or iPhones to store information they want on hand, but I’m still a fan of some of the better pocket texts. All you need are one or two, and paper is still lighter, cheaper and less breakable than the alternative. The series from is one of my favorites.


Think about it: Is your work attire streamlined and practical? Lots of pockets are great, but are you carrying around anything you don’t need? In Part II of “The Perils of Beauty,” Nurse Rebekah and Dr. Brady talk about what else might be hitching a ride on your clothes, and in Part III, they discuss what happens when germs end up in your hair, on your hands, and all over your face..

Brady Pregerson, MD
Brady Pregerson, MD, a returned Peace Corps volunteer and winner of the 1995 Wise Preventive Medicine Scholarship, completed his medical school at the University of California, San Diego, and his residency at Los Angeles County General Hospital. He has authored three medical pocket books for nurses and doctors, as well as the educational web sites and Dr. Pregerson currently works as an emergency physician in Southern California. He writes, "Although the ED environment may be quite different from working on the hospital floor or in an office setting, I am hopeful that you can take these tips and apply them to your own specific work situation." You can buy his books on lessons from the ER, including Don't Try This At Home: Lessons from the Emergency Department and Think Twice: More Lessons from the ER, at

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