Types of Labwear [FULL GUIDE]
Focus is the most important skill for anyone practicing science. Whether you’re examining a patient, conducting research or working on a lab, if you aren’t fully present, chances are your task will become more time consuming…or even dangerous.
Just imagine the consequences of losing focus administering a procedure or when dealing with volatile chemicals in the lab. Your focus shouldn’t ever be sidetracked if you can help it—factors that can be controlled should never be the culprit of a mistake.
And one of those factors not everyone things about, but which can absolutely cause distractions, is your labwear.
Lab wear is a central part of your work for two simple reasons:
- It keeps you safe
- It serves functional tasks
Your lab coat and the rest of your lab wear equipment act as the most important protective barrier between you and germs or chemicals. A scientist’s lab coat will keep its wearer protected from biohazards and accidents like laboratory spills, and a doctor’s or nurse’s lab coat will help contain germs in the hospital.
In terms of functionality, your lab wear, and especially your white lab coat, allows you to keep your everyday tools—like tablets, stethoscopes and other devices—close and easily available when you need them. Your lab wear should also fit you perfectly, or you’re inviting an unnecessary distraction. Imagine wearing a lab jacket with sleeves that are too long. Not only this will cause distraction, but it can be dangerous.
If your lab wear doesn’t provide you with optimal functionality or leaves you worried about its quality or whether it will really protect you, you’re inviting not only distraction, but unnecessary anxiety. Labwear should be as empowering in practical terms as it is symbolically.
Take the next few minutes to educate yourself on the elements of lab wear you probably hadn’t thought of yet. Just like with every other tool you use, you should know every function of lab wear and what makes the best sense for you. You’ll feel more secure, increase your productivity, and avoid losing the most important element of practicing science: focus.
First, we’ll see how lab wear use to be in the past, what today’s lab wear includes, what makes lab wear functional, what size of lab coat you should get (size really matters here), and what lab wear includes different science fields. Let’s dig in.
Lab wear consists of various items that make up the attire suitable to wear for work in a medical or lab environment. The quintessential components of lab wear include:
- The white lab coat
- Eye protection equipment
The white lab coat
The labcoat is probably the most important part of lab wear and is an essential tool for every healthcare or lab professional. It puts a barrier between you and harmful substances and contaminants, and distinguishes you from other staff members.
The best lab coats (really, all practical lab coats) should have two crucial characteristics: they should be light and comfortable, and at the same time durable and safe. With modern fabric technologies, this combination can be achieved with designer lab coats crafted specifically for medicine and science.
Essentially, what determines the comfort and protection of lab attire is the lab coat material. A lab coat is usually made of polyester or cotton. Polyester favors durability, while cotton leans towards breathability and comfort. Some designers provide lab coats with a mix of polyester and cotton to meet laboratory and clinical standards. For example, Dr. James offers lab coats that are composed of LABTEX, an industrial-grade fabric that consists of a 65/35 polyester-cotton blend.
Depending on your needs, you can select a science-custom lab coat with materials that will favor either protection or comfort (or both). For example, chemistry and science lab coats should consist of more durable materials. On the other hand, lab coats for doctors, nurses, and pharmacists will still have to provide protection, but they should also be breathable and comfortable. Finally, lab coats for conferences can favor cotton for comfort (and fitted lab coats for style)! If you want to learn more about fabrics and lab coat materials, feel free to read our article about fabrics.
A brief history of the white lab coat
Today, besides being an essential important tool for healthcare and lab professionals, the white lab coat is a symbol of scientific rigor and expertise. Patients in any healthcare setting plus collaborators in a lab feel more comfortable and command a special presence. In fact, regular and repeated research about physician lab coats and patient satisfaction has shown that patients see physicians that wear white lab coats as “more knowledgeable, trustworthy, caring, comfortable and approachable.”
However, it wasn’t always this way. Before the 19th century, the lab coat wasn’t even present in the medical field. At that time, doctors used to wear black (yes, that’s true), and only a small number of scientists wore lab coats.
Before that, the understanding and cure of diseases were based on many outside influences like religious beliefs. Knowledge and precautions around contaminating factors like germs and bacteria was nowhere as sophisticated as they are today. In the early 1900s, and with the breakthrough of sterilization, doctors started to rely more on science to cure disease. They adopted the white lab coat from scientists to embrace scientific standards and inspire greater confidence (scientists were increasingly well respected at that age). Check out this article about the history of lab coats If you want to learn how the lab coat changed how we see doctors.
Although there isn’t much information on the matter, the first recorded instances of lab coats in science comes from a 16th-century painting showing the assistants of an alchemist wearing white lab coats. At that time, the lab coat used to be worn by assistants, specifically. Later, scientists and eventually doctors adopted the attire.
Lab coats have been a symbol of the medical and scientific world for more than 100 years. However, the only common thing of lab coats from that age with the modern lab coats is their color. Although we don’t know much about the materials used in 19th-century lab coats, we can assume that they were probably made from either cotton or wool, as with most clothing of that time (polyester was discovered at about 1950).
The current state of the lab coat
Advancements in technology have revolutionized many aspects of our lives, especially our work, and especially in science and medicine. Tablets and a variety of devices are now essential tools for any scientist or healthcare professional.
Today, the lab coat is much more than personal protective equipment. It has adapted to the needs of modern scientists and health care professionals by becoming “smart,” also. Modern lab coats come with enough pockets in clever places to enable professionals to carry pens, phones and tablets, stethoscopes, and other lab tools with ease. Simplicity and efficiency in the workplace are the core principles of modern lab coats.
Moreover, today lab coats come with a plethora of options. They are not limited to male physicians and scientists in unisex sizing and uniform length. There are specific lab coats for women, students, conferences, fitted options, custom options, and designer options.
Lab coats for students
This category encompasses absolutely all lab coats for students of science or healthcare-related fields. What many students enjoy (other than the ease of finding an Amazon lab coat without leaving their dorm) is the option to pick from many designer styles, not to mention high-cotton blends that keep them cool running around campus.
Lab coats for healthcare professionals
In this category, we find lab coats for any type of healthcare professional. Lab coats for doctors, pharmacist lab coats, nurse practitioner lab coats, and may more address the growing advancements and capabilities of the medical field. These types of lab coats usually have exceptional style, allowing healthcare professionals to deal with people with the functional and professional lab coat to support all they do.
Lab coats for lab scientists
This category includes lab coats for all professionals in lab-based sciences. White coats for lab scientists usually favor protection. There are many factors to consider in terms of materials here. For example, if fire protection is not the first priority, the 65/35 polycotton blend can work great because polyester will provide protection from chemical hazards and cotton is a material that won’t melt. Moreover, lab coats for scientists should also have a lot of pockets to carry necessary tools.
Lab coat size
We mention size here because it is significant. As we’ve stressed, the modern lab coat has evolved to such a degree that today every health care or science professional can find a lab coat with specific features and fit that will only add to their work.
If the lab coat doesn’t fit right, a professional won’t be able to get the most out of it. Are the sleeves too long? Too short? What do you tend to wear under your labwear? Do you have a short torso? A big belly? You need to be comfortable and have no impediments when reaching for things, bending down or moving around the workplace. What size of lab coat should you get? After taking some simple body measurements, you can check the enormous library of Amazon lab coats, and you will definitely find what you need. For more information, you can take a look at our lab coat buying guide.
The other parts of lab wear
Although the white lab coat is probably the most important part (and what defines) of lab wear, the other parts of lab wear are also essential in terms of protection. Let’s see the other items that complete lab wear.
Scrubs are medical work attire typically worn by surgeons, operating room personnel, nurses and patient care workers, and less often by other physicians. You will frequently see scrubs in hospitals. Scrubs are usually made of a polycotton blend and their main characteristics include:
- They are breathable and comfortable
- They are easy to launder
- They have a simple design
- They are cheap to replace
- They are colorful!
Eye protection equipment
Eye protection equipment is extremely important for every professional working in a lab or medical environment. In fact, you can’t even work on a lab without using eye protection 100% of the time. Lab or safety glasses or goggles not only provide protection against debris, but can also protect your eyes from chemical and radiological hazards such as splashes or sprays, as well as from various types of lights or radiation from UV rays (depending on the material). The most popular lens material for lab eyewear is polycarbonate.
Gloves are another essential part of both labwear and healthcare lab wear. In lab settings, gloves are used to avoid contact with hazardous materials. In healthcare settings, gloves create a barrier between germs and your hands and help prevent the spread of germs.
The most common materials used for chemically-resistant laboratory gloves are natural rubber, latex, polychloroprene, butyl rubber, nitrile, and polyethylene.
To avoid skin irritants, on the other hand, the materials usually found in medical gloves are latex, polyvinyl chloride, nitrile rubber, and neoprene.
The advancements and plethora of options today for labwear, lab coats and other personal protective equipment increase your safety and efficiency while also keeping your focus on things that matter. You won’t have to fall victim to a controlled factor distraction again.