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Chaplain’s Chat: Don’t Let the Lab Coats Fool You

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“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”

 –Colossians 3:12, ESV

Lab coats.

That is what a colleague’s email asked. Do we wear lab coats? Her hospital was “color-coding” its staff,

identifying professions via designated scrubs (ER/red, ICU/blue, Respiratory/green etc.). She wanted to know what “identifier” would be good for chaplains.

Her suggestion: lab coats. Lab coats? The accepted, standard symbol of medical science and knowledge? The hallmark identifier of the medical professional/scientist? I wore a lab coat when I was a lab assistant, doing experiments and perfecting gas chromatography to determine calcium oxalate levels in blood samples. I wore it to protect my clothes from splashes and spills.

However, the lab coat is also the symbol of scientific prestige and authority; it opens doors and dominates relationships. Have you ever noticed how a lab coat is associated with position and power? Chaplains in lab coats?

My response was that the chaplains in my hospital did have an identifier; they are identified by their haloes. There is more to healing than science. There is more to healing than faith. The outstanding mark of healers is the character they display (see the Scripture verse above). What they wear is immaterial. Don’t let the lab coat fool you.    

The Rev. Dr. Bruce E. Baumberger is the chaplain at Alton Memorial Hospital. He can be reached at 618-463-7491 or at beb7572@bjc.org.

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