Off the Shelf
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My White Coat

My White Coat
Stuffed heavy with gadgets, notes and articles to read.
It’s an indicator to the layman of my lifelong obsession
To understanding the human condition
In the most scientific of ways.
Trimmed to the hem of my waist, it’s a marker for my intellectual incompetence amongst the buzzing macrocosm on the hospital wards
The worn lapel weighs my dedication to “do no harm”
Each cuff a promise to never fear my mistakes
Pockets stuffed with endless questions from loved ones and friends
Urgent for some curbside medicine
Each button promises the secrets I keep in the name of confidentiality.

My white coat
Is an invitation for endless learning and the freedom of mistakes
Is a shield protecting me from heavy responsibilities
Is a barrier for me to prove competent in the chaos of endless unfinished tasks
Is a “gazelle mark” to the house staff:
Flagging me as the useless Med Student
As I clumsily bounce in and out of the way.

My white coat
Is not an invitation for cruel pimping
Is not a reason for isolation out of a patient’s care
Is not a reason for nurses to ignore my presence
Is not an assumption that I cannot contribute —
Is not a liability.

My white coat
Is a temporary shell I carry as I crawl through the entrance of medicine
Teeter tottering like the neophyte I am
Eyes wide with wonder of such complexities
Mind overwhelmed with the knowledge pouring in ceaselessly

My white coat
Is something I will shed one day and hang
Next to a longer one
The final stage of my metamorphosis.
Is a reminder that I might one day forget what it was like
To be young and small
And to cherish the protected learning and forgiveness
So I may learn all that I can

My white coat is the passage of time, the physical embodiment of another chapter of this long, ever-learning life

Nita Chen, MD Nita Chen, MD (39 Posts)

Medical Student Editor and in-Training Staff Member Emeritus

University of Florida Fixel Movement and Neurorestoration Institute

Nita Chen is a current movement disorders fellow at University of Florida Movement and Neurorestoration program. She is Class of 2017 medical student at Albany Medical College. To become cultural, she spent her early educational years in Taiwan and thoroughly enjoyed wonderful Taiwanese food and milk tea, thus ruining her appetite for the rest of her life in the United States. Aside from her neuroscience and cognitive science majors during her undergraduate career, she holed herself up in her room writing silly fictional stories, doodling, and playing the piano. Or she could be found spazzing out like a gigantic science nerd in various laboratories. Now she just holes up in her room to study most of the time.