A traditional doctor's bag is a duffel-shaped leather satchel used primarily to carry small medical necessities when making house calls. The bag was a standard item in centuries past when doctors visited patients scattered throughout the neighboring countryside. Today, doctors working in rural areas of third world nations might use doctors’ bags more often than their affluent counterparts, while doctors in industrialized nations often choose to keep a bag packed for emergencies encountered when off duty.
The classic doctor's bag is flat-bottomed with rounded sides, slightly elongated. Two large handles come together over the top for easy carrying. The mouth of the bag has a collapsible metal frame that springs open when handles are separated and tugged. The gaping mouth makes it easy to see into the bag and extract items.
Some standard utensils one might find in a doctor's bag include a stethoscope, otoscope (to look into the ear canal), blood pressure cuff, tourniquet, forceps, stitches, needle, scissors, scalpel, antibiotics, aspirin, pain killer, bandages, antiseptic, cotton, smelling salts and antibacterial cream. A doctor’s bag can carry enough items to help a doctor assess the vital signs of a patient or someone in crisis, and perform basic emergency procedures, if necessary, to help stabilize the patient until he or she can be transported to a medical facility.
Genuine, antique doctors' bags are considered collectors' items and can be found for sale at various prices depending on the shape of the bag, its history, and distinguishing characteristics. Special features might include unique compartments and design features or monogrammed initials. Doctors' bags with date-appropriate tools can also be found displayed in many history museums.
The humble doctor's bag has come to represent, in many ways, the altruistic nature of those called to the medical profession. Away from the gleaming technology that has brought us so far, the simple, unchanged black bag still carries hope for those who need help of a doctor in the moment when technology is miles, minutes, hours or nations away.
A doctor's bag can be a thoughtful gift for a doctor or graduating medical student. A doctor might want to take a medical bag when traveling, for example, or stow it in his or her vehicle for emergencies. Bags come in many styles and price ranges, available from a variety of outlets including some luggage stores, medical supply retailers, leather shops and specialty gift stores. Doctors' bags are also available online.