Top 10 Things I Keep in My White Coat

The white coat is a symbol of the medical professional and the responsibility to provide care for all patients. It also makes a really convenient repository for various goodies to help you through your eye exams! Here are the top 10 things that I keep in my white coat.

  1. Pretesting equipment
    To quickly get through pre-test procedures like cover test and NPC, have your occluder, near-point target, ruler, and near VA card ready in your pocket. When you’re done with one item, you can quickly swap to the other from your pocket. One of my white coat pockets is devoted solely to these essential items for pretesting.
  2. Notepad and pen
    Play it safe and write down the most critical things you must remember for your patient. Things can become hectic very quickly during an exam, so always write down things if it helps you remember them. It is also useful to write down measurements if the printer has run out of paper. Always write the important things down.
  3. Pen light
    The pen light is most useful to me as a quick dilation check to see if the drops have effectively kicked in yet. With this quick two second check, I can plan the rest of my exam. It is also useful in dark testing rooms (such as for threshold visual fields) when you need to look for something.
  4. Thin wet-erase marker
    I use this marker for progressive spectacle re-checks to check if the progressive seg height matches the patient’s pupil center. A thin marker helps create precise markings. Remember to cap the marker before putting it back into your white coat pocket!
  5. Alcohol wipes
    I always wipe down equipment in front of the patient to show them that things are clean during their eye exam. A patient comes into contact with numerous pieces of equipment (autorefractor, slit lamp, NCT, etc.) throughout an exam, so make sure you keep that alcohol wipe pocket well-stocked every day.
  6. Artificial tears
    I reserve artificial tears for the elderly patients who may develop dry eye during any long procedure like subjective refraction or threshold visual fields. Dry eye can have a negative impact on examination results, so I will ask if they’d like a drop of artificial tear to keep their eyes moist and comfortable. I avoid gels because they will have the opposite effect and just blur out the patient.
  7. Chewy mints
    During long clinic days filled with patient education, my mouth becomes very dry. I like to keep chewy mints with me because chewing stimulates saliva production to keep my mouth moist. It will also freshen my breath up for the next patient.


  9. Business cards
    Perhaps it’s easy to fill up your primary care schedule, but for contacts or vision therapy it may be harder to find patients. If I’m referring a patient to a different department in clinic, I will give him my business card so that I can continue to provide care when I am scheduled for that department. It also builds good habit to refer to yourself for additional services when you are out of school.
  10. Phone with apps
    I wish that I could memorize all the contraindications to drugs, but at least I have apps on my phone for that. Epocrates and ICD9 are my most used reference apps in clinic. Here’s a great article written by Jen Diamond about the top Android apps for optometry students.
  11. Patient form with patient ID number
    I don’t like leaving the patient alone in clinic. The worst situation is when you have walked the patient over to another room for specialized testing but have forgotten the form with the patient’s ID number that is necessary to run the test. Now you have to abandon the patient while running back to your exam room to grab that sheet of paper. Simply keep the paper in your white coat at all times just in case you need it.

Ideally as we progress through clinic, we will rely on fewer aids in our white coat pockets. However, these are the 10 essentials that I must have in my white coat to feel comfortable while giving patient care. These 10 things help me effectively and efficiently complete an eye exam while improving the experience for the patient.

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