Saturday, February 13, 2010

Medical Cover: Abaya/Lab Coat/Scrubs

Rafa, Renad, and Loulwa, KAU medical students wearing lab coats, and ID, inside KAUH (King Abdul Aziz Hospital)

This article, “Alternative to abaya? Try lab coat”, originally in Arab News, which was included by Ahmed of Saudi Jeans in one of his Issues posts, inspired me to write this. While Ahmed found it “Awesome”, I am more conflicted in my response. On the one hand, I do believe that appropriate cover that helps alleviate "abaya angst" is to be applauded, as is abaya/hijab creativity. On the other, I have concerns about non-medical personnel wearing medical garb, and medical personnel wearing it outside a medical setting.

This stems in part from the demands of my own medical training, and in part from being the daughter of a current inpatient (probably will be in hospital a total of 3 months). Mostly, it has to do with my personal and professional concerns around medical ethics generally, and patient safety ultimately.

Duha, KAU medical student inside KAUH

The article warrants being copied here in full, before discussion.

Wednesday 10 February 2010 (25 Safar 1431)

Alternative to abaya? Try lab coat
Fatima Sidiya I Arab News

JEDDAH: Nouf wears a lab coat instead of an abaya when she is in public. She likes people to think she is a doctor. But she is not. In fact, she is a 24-year-old geography graduate.

Nouf is part of a growing crowd of young women who have taken advantage of a loophole in the system which demands women wear an abaya in public. The one permitted alternative for them is a white medical lab coat — but of course, only for doctors and medical personnel.

But it is not only medical personnel who wear lab coats in public; students in different parts of the Kingdom who are studying architecture, art, biology, home economics and other subjects are now going along with this trend.

What pushes these students to take off their abayas in public and wear a lab coat is mainly to feel “easy going.” While it now looks normal in the morning in public places including coffee shops, restaurants and malls in Jeddah, Dammam and Dhahran, the case is, however, different in Riyadh, Abha and Madinah.
Madinah medical students are allowed to take off their abayas only inside hospitals and it would be not acceptable for a woman to wear a lab coat in public unless she has her abaya on.

In Abha, and even inside hospitals, students have to put their lab coat over their abayas.
Riyadh girls, however, have their own tricks, said Abeer, a student majoring in hospital administration, adding that though the women guards at the university do not allow students to leave without abayas students normally wait until they are in the car park and then take off their abayas before heading elsewhere.

According to Abeer, there are different styles of lab coats and students may spend up to SR200 for a body-hugging design in special material, and their families might not know that they take off their abayas in public.

“Part of it is fashion and also for others to know that I could be a doctor and not just another person. I also hope it is a revolution against the abaya,” she added.

Khawla, a medical student in Jeddah, often wears her lab coat. “Because I don’t usually have a long break and I go home for lunch, I don’t bring my abaya because it is heavy and a bother to carry around the university.”

According to Khawla, “Some art students put on lab coats so they can wear jeans or trousers because it is not permissible to wear pants at the university unless the student is wearing a lab coat.”
She added that her lab coat, on some occasions, makes people give her respect, listen to her and even give her priority.

Khawla said she did not go shopping when wearing her lab coat because she has been harassed by young men several times. She said at the university students are told that their lab coats “must be below the knee and not tight. They also prefer that we don’t go out in it, but there are no firm rules.”
According to Khawla, lab coats are better than tight abayas.

An administration employee at a hospital in Dammam who was against publicizing the matter said she did wear an abaya over her lab coat while in the car and while eating lunch in public places. “We go out during our break time; we have never been harassed. The bottom line is that we are following the proper dress code.”

Badriya Al-Bishr, a Saudi author and columnist, said though there are agreements on dress code and fashion that when it comes to modesty and ethics particularly in Arab and Islamic communities, dress codes do change over time.

“Islam calls for modesty for both men and women,” she said, adding that the mere size of the lab coat is already considered hijab in some countries such as Turkey and Syria.

Commenting on the acceptance of lab coat in some areas while others have yet to accept it, she said, “Traditions stay the same in remote regions and rural areas. When the area is away from a city, tradition is strong. Traditions have always been stronger against women. Women tried 20 years ago to change this color — black — but it was not acceptable.”

********

To complete the picture, other non-clinical, non-laboratory hospital staff wear lab coats in Saudi hospitals and sometimes outside. Some seem to relish the idea of being mistaken for clinical or laboratory staff, as does Abeer cited in the article, a Riyadhi student of hospital administration, who "could be a doctor" in her lab coat.

 Abeer, who is a medical student, and will be a doctor, wears a lab coat inside KAUH

Before I go further, let me say that I never enjoyed wearing a lab coat, particularly not the boxy, awkward fitting short ones we were required to buy and wear as medical students to make sure everyone knew that we were student doctors, and not to be mistaken for doctors. In a fit of rebellion, late in my clinical clerkship (ie 2 months left to"MD"), I had one made in decent material, from a Vogue pattern, with much better styling, including nice looking but serviceable pockets, and 3/4 length for bottom hem and 3/4 sleeves--much nicer and more comfortable over my chosen fashion of skirts and tops, and the highest, most colourful sandals I could manage. I got away with it because by then I was well labelled as "special" (LOL :) ), and well protected (hard earned).  Besides, in other circumstances, my particular surgery superviser and I would have had a better relationship than the master-slave dialectic we were forced into. The absence of lab coats in psychiatry was a plus in favour of my chosen specialty.

Lab coats do serve positive functions, however. Besides the obvious one of protecting street clothes from medical spillage, a lab coat also protects the inside of  the hospital from the "flora and fauna", the fungi, viruses, and bacteria, of the outside world. Except for washing, lab coats are supposed to stay inside the hospital, and some hospitals have their own laundry service which includes this.  They are designed with large pockets for medical paraphernalia and notes.

Lab coats also identify medical personnel, and are most often worn by medical doctors, and laboratory personnel. The short ones are often worn by medical students, and nurses now like to wear a lab coat as part of their general rejection of the classic nursing uniform and their sense of professional status. This in itself can lead to confusion for patients and families, as well as other personnel from other services, about who is whom.

Zain and Lujain, medical students  in the classroom, showing my favourite white and blue combo

In KSA, not only is the issue of medical professional identification at stake, but perhaps more so the reputation of women as medical professionals. If, as the article states, non-medical personnel are wearing body hugging lab coats and passing themselves off as doctors, this reflects negatively in the public eye on female doctors. Saudi Arabia doesn't seem to need more discouragement about women physicians, nor does any society for that matter, where they are still a minority and in lower positions generally within the medical specialty hierarchies, medical administration, research, and academic medicine.

A further concern, which has already been raised by Saudis, is that women in medicine will suffer, or at least be reprimanded because they are not allowed to wear lab coats outside of the hospital, except maybe for a quick dash somewhere close by or between buildings.  Another worry is the Muttawa. If this becomes more prominent, or more prominently covered by the media, there is a risk of a crackdown on the nonmedical offenders, and the innocent medical staff in lab coats.  As the article describes, there is regional variation in where lab coat substitution for the abaya is occurring, and how well it is tolerated, or not. Certainly Faculties of Medicine may well issue reminders and oversee students and women physicians and professors more closely on this matter. Rather unjust and unfair to their sisters, on the part of those seeking abaya freedom and to pass as doctors, by wearing medical cover in the form of a lab coat.

Though not mentioned in the Arab News article, perhaps because the fashion hasn't yet caught on in Saudi, scrubs are another whole issue of medical attire, or "cover".

Roah, medical student, daughter of a surgeon, and based on the scrubs...headed for a surgical specialty?

These days in North America, surgical scrubs can be purchased easily from department stores, and are fashionable sleepwear, lounge wear, and casual wear, particularly the "greens".  They do, however, come in a variety of colours. The original, and ongoing medical purpose though, is for easy to get on and off, easily washable surgical garb that is reserved for the operating theatre and environs, as part of  infection prevention protocols, that include a fresh sterile "gown", gloves, and surgical mask over the scrubs plus surgical hat and booties. Scrubs really shouldn't be worn to the hospital library, gift shop, coffee shop, cafeteria, etc, and certainly not outside.


Medical students Shahad and Sara, wearing lovely hijab variations with their lab coats


Unfortunately scrubs in various colours have become de rigueur attire for all personnel in the teaching hospital where my father is currently a patient. I say unfortunately because it is now difficult to distinguish who is a doctor, a nurse, a ward clerk, or cleaning person.  It turns out the imperious man in the "greens" working each of the 4 days we spent 9hrs in the ER, is a cleaner--obvious when he is cleaning, not obvious when he is discussing patient bed assignments with other staff.  The ladies lounging in maroon? Ah, it depends on the ward--either cleaning staff on break, or nursing staff on break.  Turquoise--definitely reception by the woman's office placement at a glass window onto the reception area, but a triage nurse as well? Maybe. Greens but handling a mop--cleaning staff for sure. The guy in blue jeans and polo shirt--the ER doc.

Haneen, in neither an operating theatre nor a performance arts one, but rather in the medical auditorium

In fact, I can usually tell by demeanor, conversation, and other accessories who does what even when they aren't actively doing it. Still, in a patient emergency one would like to know whom to address immediately, and in general it would speed up and improve communication if one didn't have to guess. Not to mention that there is a certain professionalism that goes with not wearing scrubs, which are generally ill fitting and very casual looking when not covered by a surgical gown or lab coat. Hopefully, Saudi Arabia will not discover the scrub craze, or at least not have it become part of an abaya alternative, as the "pants" beneath the lab coat.

Noura, in dramatically contrasting black and white

Ironically, for someone who has been there and worn that, the current fashion in KSA with lab coats, and the one in North America with scrubs just brings back memories of difficult to keep clean white polyester, with little room for clothing options underneath, and fighting to get a pair of men's, AKA doctor's,  greens --the women's greens (scoop neck, tapered waist, and top back belt) were for nurses primarily, and resulted in added stigma in the operating room from the surgical staff. 

I definitely needed something considerably smaller than a men's X-Large, which always seemed to be the only size left--so that the pants wouldn't fall down, and the V-neck reveal too much of whatever cleavage might be there. Hoarding scrubs, and commenting on students, interns, and residents who "made off with them", "used them when they were on call for medicine", "slept in them during cat naps on overnight call" seemed to be the personal mission of obgyn nurses/ midwives, at least on the service I trained on. Indeed, psychiatry, what with its scrub-free, and largely lab coat free, attire, has definite pluses as a specialty!

Very serious medical students, Ahad and Asmaa (Souma, Soumz)

The examples of the female KAU medical students in appropriate attire, including lab coats, inside KAUH (King Abdul Aziz Hospital) are courtesy of Asmaa's excellent photography and post, Donate A Smile For KAUH-Snapshots, on her always excellent blog, Chapter One. I would like to thank Asmaa for graciously agreeing that her photos be part of this post, and wish her and her fellow students a very enjoyable 7th Scientific Conference for Medical Students in the GCC Countries to be held at KAUH in Jeddah,  February 13-16, 2010. Hopefully they will find time eventually to read and comment here. In the meantime, do view the wonderful video that is part of the Donate A Smile for KAUH project, and which contains other (co-ed) photos of KAUH students, physicians, hospital personnel, and staff, all smiling beautifully to an outstanding rendition of the song "Smile (though your heart is breaking)" .

What impressions do you have reading the Arab News article?
Do you have any concerns about medical attire in or out of the hospital?
What have been your experiences of hospital staff and identification by "uniform"?
Do "the clothes make the professional", so to speak?
What are other ways of creatively staving off "abaya angst"?
If you are Saudi, and in medicine, how does this impact you?
Any other comments, thoughts, experiences?

Related Post:
Hemlines: Fashion, Modesty, Abaya Wearing, and Cross-Cultural "Wars" (Conjugal and Other)

23 comments:

Souma said...

I had your exact same concerns when i read that article. I don't find that gesture applaudable in the least.

A labcoat is a uniform, professional attire that should not be worn outside the hospital (for bio-hazard reasons). On many occasions our doctors see those other students prancing around in malls in tight labcoats with ultra skinny jeans and think those are their students, and we get a good talking to at the hospital because of them! they get us in trouble.

They can tailor abayas in any fashion they want. instead of the shiny repulsive designs, why not make one that is plain and NOT black? i wore a navy abaya as a teenager, my little sister has been wearing grey abayas since she was forced into her first. my friend wears a mauve abaya now.

We don't exactly have a scrub scaze, but i do see the occasional scrub-scarf-bag-shoe in the same colour people, usually BFFs in barbie pink. Our supposed uniform is blue scrubs under the labcoats and a neutral scarf.

I can tell medical students from residents, interns and teaching staff by their IDs. a terrible thing is that women who cover their faces put a sticker on their face in the ID card photo. i can't see her face AND i can't make sure it's her.

Ashraf said...

Proper Islamic attire, although very important, is not my concern in this response. Healthcare related infections, on the other hand, are important public health concerns.

Wearing a lab coat or scrubs is a mean to help minimize the spread of bugs and germs. Nosocomial infections, or healthcare associated infections, are not joking matters. Some serious complications might result from them. So why bring such microorganisms into public, including your own homes?

Besides, why confuse the patients, like you said, on who's the doctor, the nurse, or the technologists? It's already stressful being in a medical facility. Do we really need to add more to all the stress?

So why are these young men and women behaving in such manner? In my opinion, our society has focused, unfortunately, too much on status and prestige the medical profession comes with. Therefore, if you're in the medical profession, you get the special treatment as if you were almost a saint, even though, some are so far from being saints. In addition, if our high-school graduates receive high grades, they are expected by society to become doctors. If they didn't, everyone looks at them with a surprised eye, I hope that's not the case anymore!

So, I say, let's worry less about fashion and superficials, and let's focus on what might be harmful and beneficial to our society!

Thanks for a great topic.

Abu Abdullah said...

Adding to what Ashraf said, i have known and seen even men behaving the same way.

The doctors and "medical professionals" go out to malls, buy groceries, etc. wearing their Lab Coats along with their Hospital ID Cards!!!

Most of these people treat their lab coats as a casual going out dress, sometimes i am like are these people really serious, its a obvious show off and also these people are subjecting themselves to ID Theft as well!!!

Actually the fact is that in Saudi Arabia one usually gets their respect in the society from their status, profession, education and yes money also... And Doctors and Engineers are held in high esteem over here, and if a person readily identifies themselves as a doctor they can expect good respect from others. Also did you know I guess this is the only place where Engineers can use the word "Engineer" or "Eng." as a title in before their names!!! like you can see business cards like "Eng. Abdullah" !!!!

On a side note, in the Indian Armed Forces one is not allowed to wear their military uniform outside their working hours. Even cadets who are on week end pass need to change into civilian clothes to go outside their bases. This is done to ensure that the service personnel do not use their position to gain influence among civilians and also for their own personal protection as well.

I am actually a firm believer in humility and not showing off and i don't like such practices either.

single4now said...

I found the article funny. It's not so much about modesty but about fashion, attention and importance. I remember a male classmate once asking me for my steth so that patients didn't mistake him for a male nurse. While often patients would mistaken me and my female colleagues for nurses even with our lab coats because many nurses would roam around in lab coats as well.

I'm not sure how much it would work for girls to get rid of the abaya but the eventual point of the abaya is that it's loose and hides the shape of the body. It's black so it doesn't attract attention however many abayas are designed to be attractive. I would make more sense to wear loose regular clothing. Girls can wear pants and long loose tops. Then again, depends on the rules of the college/university.

ellen557 said...

I agree with you Chiara... I get that not wearing the abaya is a victory for women who don't like it, but I think that in this case, wearing a doctors coat isn't the answer. Imagine if there was a real medical emergency and time was wasted because a woman decided to wear the coat and was mistaken for a doctor? I actually think that the style of the coat is good though... perhaps they could just be a darker colour and worn over jeans? It's the same look but doesn't suggest that the wearer is familiar with medicine.

I loved the photos though - such beautiful hijabs!

Qusay said...

There used to be a guy that walked around with his lab coat around a famous walking place in Jeddah, I used to think why on earth would he be walking with it?

I think... that the girls in lab coats in malls and restaurants like being called Dr more than anything else, not the whole against abaya thing. An old friend of mine used to hang his lab coat in the back seat so the "girls" in other cars would look at him... u know... he would use it to his advantage and the whole "oh he's a Dr" works everywhere in the world ;) and after ER and McDreamy... well... u know.

Susanne said...

Enjoyed this and the comments. Many of the head scarves pictured are really pretty.

Chiara said...

Souma--thanks for sharing your concerns and an insider's perspective. It must be extra unfortunate to be reprimanded for the behaviour of students not even in the Faculty of Medicine.

There is a lot of professionalism and safety at risk for a fashion statement that could well be made in some other way, as you point out.

In Iran the acceptable colours for the "coat" were: black, dark grey, brown, navy, dark green, and dark maroon. I wore royal blue and survived but I was in a protected environment. Women who want to be seen as the most pious, or those wanting to advance in academic medicine or the Ministry of Women's Health wear the black chador, but it is far from obligatory, even though there is full segregation of medical studies, ministries of health, and even sitting in the same auditorium, including for husband's and wives, as well as the final banquet for the conference.

I did get a lift from a male doctor but had to sit in the back seat, for which he apologized. However, I realized right away that sitting in the front was not wise, and although I felt a little like I was in a taxi, he was very pleasant and accompanied me on my errand with no problem from anyone.

Headscarves, even in Iran, give a greater opportunity for fashion sense and creativity.

Ewww, matching Barbie scrubs with the BFF--I'd rather wear the guy's greens (in a suitable size). The blue ones Roah is wearing in the photo you took look nice and are practical I'm sure.

Now the no ID, ID badge is just plain dangerous! and should be disallowed. Too easy for a psych case (officially diagnosed or not) or an addict looking for drugs, or a foolishly curious student from elsewhere to get into and around the hospital--now I'm remembering the ones who steal babies, or inject things in IV lines. Definitely need accurate, verifiable IDs.

Chiara said...

Ashraf--Welcome! I just visited your excellent blog on public health issues in Saudi! Great topic, I think everyone in all specialties should have a strong awareness of public health. I hope you will comment on the cross-cultural medicine posts that precede this one, and on any other posts that you find interesting on the blog.

I have a category entitled "Saudi Medicine" (SaudiMedicine on the side bar), and I am hoping Saudis will contribute more of the Saudi part than I am able to do based on research and consulting with friends.

You make excellent points about nosocomial ("hospital-induced") infections and I would add iatrogenicity (doctor-induced) whether into the hospital or into the home.

When SARS was affecting Toronto and Hong Kong both places had strict limitations on movements into and out of hospitals, and doctors and nurses suspected of having SARS were quarantined, including Dr. Donald Low the Infectious Disease expert most involved (and most interviewed) in Canada. The Public Health Officer for Toronto, a South Asian-Canadian Doctor,did an outstanding job. Sadly she died last year of cancer.

It is true that patients (and their families) are stressed, and part of their stress in hospital is keeping up with who the various members the treating team are, let alone having to guess their role. I'm sure they catch on, but they certainly have less experience looking at other cues to identify the person. The other day I told my mother that the man in street clothes with the stethoscope was a physio. She was amazed I could tell from...I don't know, I just knew!

Yes sadly the position of the physician is either deified, or often here, demonized, and parents can mess children up forcing them into medicine, or making them feel like lifelong failures if they don't get in. Regretfully, in my experience of patching up the mental health of students, this is most overt in the South Asian, and South East Asian communities.

Fortunately for those who do get in there is a huge range of ways to be in medicine--ah, but the same parents want them to be surgeons, or internal medicine subspecialists, or anything but a psychiatrist! LOL :)

Special treatment medically for physicians is said to be either especially good, or especially bad, and there can be some real disastrous outcomes in the latter category.

Thanks again for your comment, and I look forward to others from you.
I will also be heading back to your blog!

Chiara said...

Abu Abdullah-thanks for adding your perspective to this, and reminding about the male physicians' abuses of their lab coats. The issue about ID theft is an important one, because the ID would also allow access to closed areas of the hospital, and drugs are always an issue.

Your comment about Indian Army regulations is very apropos of the role of the uniform, including medical garb, socially and professionally. In a much less important vein, the first experience I had with this was as a lifeguard, and trying to get takeout from nearby on a 15 minute break. The t-shirt which was labelled "Lifeguard" and the crest of the municipal recreation department was part of the uniform along with the regulation bathing suit. The t-shirt had to be off and the bathing suit covered if we were going off the pool grounds--first lessons in speed changing!

I agree that humility is more becoming than its opposite.

Chiara said...

Single4now--yes there is a very immodest motive behind this choice of cover, or abaya alternative. Indeed, even stethoscopes are genderized: the pastel very simple ones for nurses, the grey Littman inexpensive one for 1st yr med students (ie 1st year North American; 5th year uni); and the serious black ones with the more sensitive bells for senior students and up. Female gender and MD seem not to compute in the minds of many. I have more than once insisted to a pharmacist that I AM the doctor, he (or she) can take the prescription order from me, I don't have to ask the doctor to call back.

I agree that there are safer, more genuinely modest abaya alternatives than medical garb, but in Saudi the options are probably more restricted than in other MENA countries.

Ellen--yes, safety before feminist inroads into apparel, or that should be part of the feminism. Maybe one of the Saudis would comment on how permissible a long loose tunic over pants would be as an abaya alternative. It sounds a little dicey though it shouldn't be, in terms of acceptable Islamic dress elsewhere.

I agree that these headscarves are beautiful and worn in a variety of very nice styles. A Saudi friend sent me pictures with other really beautiful materials in the headscarves, including unusually beautiful paisleys. I think it is important to see the headscarf as a fashion item to make wearing it, for those who must and don't want to, a happier experience.

Souma's photos really set the ones here off.

Chiara said...

Qusay--thanks for sharing these observations which sound pretty universal though more exaggerated in some cultures than others. For some, men and women, just "marrying a doctor" seems to be the only relationship criterion. I had a patient whose mother wanted her to marry only an MD specialist of the aristocracy of a then communist Eastern European country. Rather reduces the chances--especially when based in Canada!

"ER" has dramatically increased the number of medical students wanting a residency position in ER medicine (it was until recently something that GPs and general surgeons did). It has also altered what med students think is a good answer to a question in class-at least according to a med student in France whose prof shouted "No, you don't stick your finger in to stop the bleeding! This is not 'ER'!"

Alas, McDreamy does nothing for me in any of his manifestations... :( I really think I am the only one who fails to see the attraction. :(
Well the only heterosexual female one, then. :)

Thanks for your comment.

Susanne--Thank you, and YES! I think more women planning expatriation to Saudi should view these photos and take fashion lessons, and feel heartened.

Susanne said...

Chiara,

"I think more women planning expatriation to Saudi should view these photos and take fashion lessons, and feel heartened."

I agree! I was so used to the black abaya that I failed to realize the lovely head scarves until you shared these photos. I actually like a LOT of them. I've recently started wearing (neck) scarves so maybe I'm more conscious of pretty ones now. :-)


This was funny --

"I had a patient whose mother wanted her to marry only an MD specialist of the aristocracy of a then communist Eastern European country."

:-D

Chiara said...

Susanne--yes wearing neck scarves makes one more sensitized to the lovely fabrics, patterns, and colours available. Also somewhere I have a book published in the US on how to tie scarves--head, neck, shoulders--which has some really great ideas for Islamic scarf wearing, but from classic Western looks (which come in and out of fashion). Must find that again--for some reason I didn't have it in mind for my Iran trip, silly! Or even in Bali (Hindu) where head cover was required in some places--one must ALWAYS pack a LARGE scarf, preferably light weight silk in a lovely colour! LOL :)

Maha Noor Elahi said...

Honestly speaking (and i hope i don't offend anyone), I don't like seeing those girls in the streets because it is pointless to wear a lab coat at a mall. I know some of them who wear it to brag about their medical profession and others wear it without being doctors or even doctors-to-be.
As for modesty and hijab, this lab coat is quite acceptable as a decent hijab in many Arab countries and in Jeddah as well. I find it decent if the hair is not shown and the make up is removed.
Yet again...if these girls wear it to brag or show off, it shows a serious confidence and identity problem besides triviality of course :)

As usual Chiara, your posts are amazing and though provoking.

Chiara said...

Maha--thank you for your kind words and excellent comment. You rightly point out the broader meaning of hijab which is modesty. Immodestly or fraudulently wearing a lab coat defeats the purpose of using it to cover modestly.
I really hope that for the sake of women and women medical practitioners this abaya alternative becomes obsolete by those seeking alternatives becoming more creative, and more respectful in their choices. Thanks again for your comment.

karen said...

I understand the concern over the girls wearing the lab coats to show off and the problems that could come from possible confusion of non-medical personal as doctors. But this sounds like a great solution for expats who are not comfortable in an abaya. Expats from various other Muslim or non-Muslim cultures may wish to be modest but have a big problem with long, black, hard to walk in, pocket-less abayas. The lab coat seems to cover what is necessary for the local culture and has pockets and allows much more mobility since the woman's legs won't get tangled in the length of fabric as with an abaya. Also the lab coats are made to go over clothes and are made to be easily washed. To avoid the problem of being misidentified as a medical professional, the lab coat could be made in another color - even black if the woman was afraid of venturing into variations on the de rigueur black. Also a colored lab coat, as well as keeping the woman from being misidentified as a medical professional, would keep her from being misidentified as a Saudi lady, unless colored lab coats became common among Saudi women and girls. What do you think?

Chiara said...

Karen--Welcome to my blog and thank you for your comment.

I fully agree that one should be creative in meeting the abaya requirement, and that a long coat or lab coat disguised as "not a lab coat" would make a good alternative. One might even buy lab coats and dye them while still in the USA (for example) to have them on hand for KSA.

In fact, Iranians are more likely to wear the long jacket and scarf combo than the black chador in my experience--limited there, fair bit here. Iran allows (sometimes) sober colours rather than black, and it is my understanding that Saudi does too. Of course where one is and the immediate community will dictate by local custom what is good, acceptable, passable, or not done.

I hope some Saudi or Saudi-based women give you some further thoughts on this.

Thank you again for your comment, and interesting suggestion. I hope you will comment as well on newer and older posts. The niqab is coming up in the next post! (Not required in Saudi, especially not for non-Muslims). :)

Chiara said...

PS You might want to look at some of the traditional Saudi tribal dresses for inspiration for shapes, motifs, colours:

Saudi Women's Work: Domestic Artists to Working Artisans

العندليب said...

اولا شيء احب امسي على الحضور الكرام والجمع الغفير والمشاهدين خلف الشاشات وجمع من المواطنين << شكرا لاداعي للتصفيق (متواضع هع ) ... بصفتي طبيب مقيم بالمستشفى الجامعي طيب الله جدرانه الزكيه العطره وادام الله وجوده ذخرا للعلم وطلابه .. اللاب كوت زي لطيف ورائع يعطي نوع من التجديد بالنسبه للجنس الناعم ويخفف من درجه الحراره الناتجه عن لبس العبايه السودا وله خفه في التحرك يواكبها شعور بالتميز واحساس بقيمة وشرف مهنه الطب لاسيما انه انبل العلوم بعد علم الكتاب والسنه ... برأيي انه لايعتبر بديلا كليا عن العبايه لكن طالبات الطب جل وقتهم من والى المستشفى فادى ذلك الى انهم فارقو جو العبايه كثيرا من الازمان .. اعجبتني الردود الي وضحت اللاب كوت ايش دوره في الحياه يعني مو زيي تخرج فيه الدكتوره لكل مكان وعند اي احد ... مع تحفظي من بعض انواع البالطو الي تسبب ضيق بالتنفس ومشدات رياضيه غير مقصوده !! ربما لتخفيف الوزن !! ناهيك عن ماشف وبان مما لايحبذ ذكره وبقي ان نعرج عن الفنايل العلاقي (الموضه الجديده) الي تكون تحت البالطو والي بالصور فوق والله مشبه عليهم بسلامتهم لكني اقول انو احسن الظن فيهم !!... وياولد امسك نفسك !!!

وبالله عليكم اذا سئلو ليه رديت بالعربي فالواقع انها لغه القران ولي ابسط الحقوق ان افتخر بها ... وقوقل ترانسيلت مايقصر ...

العندليب

Chiara said...

العندليب--أهلا وسهلا!شكرا لك!

Welcome and thank you for your comment. A Saudi friend found it insightful and humorous! :)

As I understand it, you understand why medical students would wear a lab coat running to and from the hospital, and don't object.

You are concerned however about ones that are too tight, and the exercise tolerance of the wearers.

Please correct me if I am wrong.

Thank you again for your comment, and please comment on older and newer posts.

Everyone--I had a lot of visitors from Facebook to this post yesterday. Please feel free to comment! and also to explain to this Facebook neophyte how that happened! :)

Souma said...

3andaleeb:
iza 8ara2t kul eli katabato chiara, 7atlagi inno hadoola ille fel 9owar joz2 min mashroo3 lil mustashfa al jami3e esmo "donate a smile for KAUH" fa akeed t7sin al than fe 6abeebat mustashfatak. fe link lil mashroo3 fe hada al mawdoo3 law 7abib tshoufo, bas law sama7t t7sin al than b zameelatak.

thank u. w asfa ma radeet b 7oroof 3arabiya, al keyboard ma fe 3arabi.

Chiara said...

Souma--thank you for your comment.

I do hope all will read the entire post and the links, and appreciate that these girls' photos were used here because of the topic.

However, the video contains many, many photos of men donating their wonderful smiles as well, some of which are on Souma's own post, as linked! :)

I wanted to thank as well Zaid Malaibari (KAU, Medicine '10) for linking this post on his Facebook site.

Arabic speakers may wish to check out his blog as well. He is a poet as well as a final year med student!

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