I once received a ticket for wearing scrubs. I don’t mean that I got a speeding ticket or a parking ticket because a police officer had it in for members of the medical profession. I mean that I actually got the ticket for wearing scrubs.
I was a third year med student on my internal medicine rotation and things seemed to be going along well; by the second week into it, I was pretty much in the swing of things. The only downside was that I am not a morning person and getting to the hospital by 6:30 AM to check on my patients before the team rounded at 7 AM was a challenge. So when I arrived the morning of “the incident” I hopped out of the car and headed quickly across the parking lot. As I moved towards my destination, I spotted two security guards coming towards me.
Once they reached me, the one who appeared to be in charge asked me who my supervisor was.
Hmmm. All I had done so far is get out of my car. Was this some kind of security violation? Was I supposed to take the subway instead of driving? This was Los Angeles, and I had heard rumors that a subway existed somewhere within the city, but I had never actually seen it. I quickly deduced that the problem must lay elsewhere.
I decided that the smart thing to do would be to cooperate with the authorities, so I gave him the name of the senior resident on my team. He then scribbled something on a pad, while the other guard, who appeared to be a trainee, looked on with a serious demeanor.
The security guard then handed me a piece of paper that said “ticket” on it, to alleviate any possible confusion. The violation was explained to me as “wearing scrubs outside of the hospital.” Med student training for a new rotation was hit and miss and usually consisted of no more than a “Hi, I’m the resident, follow me” and not a lot of discussion about scrubs protocol. The smartest approach was usually to lay low at first and do what everyone else does. In this case, that meant wearing my scrubs to the hospital and home, bringing them back in a bag and throwing them into the hospital laundry the next day, then retrieving a new pair from the stack of clean ones. Well, it turned out that due to infection control policies (or maybe policies to prevent the theft of scrubs?) hospital issued scrubs were not to be worn outside the hospital, even if they were clean.
Me: What am I supposed to do with this?
Security guard: Show it to your supervisor.
With that advice, I resumed my journey across the parking lot and checked on my patients. During rounds, I wondered what the outcome of the ticket would be. Probation? A fine? Or, even worse for a med student, would this reflect negatively on my evaluation? After rounds, I fished the ticket out of my pocket, handed it to the resident and informed her that I had gotten a ticket for wearing scrubs in the parking lot.
Her brow furrowed. The two interns snickered. I looked around for my (non-existent) med student counterpart for support. The resident glanced at the ticket, looked at me and handed it back to me. “I never heard of this happening.” she said.
How is it that she, after three years of showing up to work in scrubs she had never heard of this, and I had walked into a sting after one week?
For the few days after the ticket, I did dutifully bring my scrubs to work and change back into street clothes before I left. As the rotation wore on and the sleep deprivation accumulated, I decided that the ten minutes extra sleep I would get was worth risking another ticket. After all, unlike a speeding ticket, there was no fine. As a med student, the only thing that would have gotten me to give up extra sleep would be to incur an expense at a time in my life when I had no income.
The rest of the rotation went uneventfully, but I still remember that rotation fondly as the “The Scrub Ticket Rotation.”
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