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 ERPocketBooks.com 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..

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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 erpocketbooks.com and gotsafety.org.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 amazon.com.

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2 Responses to What’s in your scrubs pockets?

  1. Rhonda G.

    I really like the dynamic between Dr. Brady and Nurse Rebekah. Working in a teaching hospital, I am always surrounded by MDs of various experience levels from medical students to residents to fellows and attendings. I will say that today so many resources are packed onto PDAs for easy access that seeing a resident with pockets overflowing with books is a rare sight. However, you can always tell by the deer-in-the-headlights look :) I have also heard rumors that the length of the white jacket indicates how experienced the person may be as well, but have not researched that enough to know if that’s true. And I do think you will find more residents in scrubs than, say, attendings- which would make sense because the residents are doing more patient care for the most part. And in the very first paragraph of Nurse Rebekah’s response, I think she brings up a great point about the amount of commonly used hospital items (stethoscopes, ties, shoes, etc) that are completely contaminated from patient to patient and can be a transmitter of many germs. I did some research once on disposable stethoscope covers for those patients that have MRSA and found that they do indeed exist- and now I’m wondering why they are found readily available in the hospitals.

  2. christinehauser

    Just worked a 12 hour night shift at LTAC hospital and this is honestly what I had in my two scrub jacket pockets, I kid you not….
    -4 black pens, 1 red pen, 1 green pen, yellow highlighter, dry erase marker
    -5 #23 gauge butterfly vacutainer needles
    -4 10 ml syringe NS flushes
    -about 50 alcohol wipes
    -2 tourniquets
    -roll of tape
    -pulse oximeter
    -many 2×2 gauze pads
    -7 varying glass blood collection tubes
    -3 plastic blood collection devices and 5 rubber topped screw in suction needles for blood draws
    -3 10 ml empty syringes
    -3 3 ml empty syringes
    -1 Lopez valve stopcock
    -1 roll of kerlex
    -2 plastic strips of 10 small orange antibiotic caps for IV connections
    -5 pink sponge toothettes
    -2 straws
    -1 plastic spoon
    -plastic pill crusher
    -5 white carbon copies of nursing orders
    -small calculator
    And of course stethoscope around my neck, clipboard with my “brains”, and my nursing bag with drug book, skill book, care plan book, essential medical info book, and about 100 other various little necessities I like to have on hand if needed. I have been a nurse for 22+ years and every single day that I have ever worked, come home, and emptied my pockets, I say to myself…..THIS IS RIDICULOUS AND YOU’VE GOT TO STOP!! LOL! But, the next day as I am readying for another shift, I refill my pockets with everything I took out and always come home with MORE in my pockets than I started with…..

    Am I some kind of “strange compulsive hoarding nurse” or are there others like me out there??