What’s up with hospital gowns??


by Rhonda Massad

To practice what I preach when it comes to giving back to our community I have signed up to be part of a volunteer medical study of healthy subjects that requires a few MRI’s each year, some blood tests and of course the sporting of hospital gowns.

When you look up hospital gowns in the dictionary, the blue frock is described as ” a short collarless gown that ties in the back, worn by patients being examined or treated in a doctor’s office, clinic, or hospital.”

Rhonda Massad, West Island Blog, West Island News, What's up with hospital gowns?? Montreal Grandma
Why is it even called a gown?

They are generally light blue or light green and disliked by patients because they are ugly, ill-fitting and leaves one’s backside ignominiously exposed. Whether a patient is in the hospital for an organ transplant, an appendectomy, or to have a baby, one complaint is common: the gown.

At a recent appointment, I asked the nurse about why they are designed this way. She really had no answer. Most of the exams need the front part of your body, heart, abdomen, appendix; you know what I am saying. Let’s face it if they need to examine the back you don’t give a darn what you are wearing. The train has arrived at the worst station anyway.

The Gown?

I researched the whole hospital gown issue. The usual design that patients endure is called the “Johnny gown.” The story goes that it evolved in the 1800s: some say from nightshirts; others say from bed sheets. I can’t imagine that that revelation would surprise anyone who’s survived any time in a hospital clinic; The “Johnny” looks like repurposed bed linen.

The Wall Street Journal published several thousand words on the issue and quoted a vice-president of Premier Inc., a non-profit coalition of 2100 hospitals as saying the Johnny gown gets “a bum rap.” He added, in the ultimate put-down, “Aren’t there more pressing problems worth tackling?”

I get it, hospital staff are trying to save lives and have more pressing things to think about but can’t we have both clinical efficiency and patient comfort? Of course, being seriously ill is not exactly a trip to the spa. I’m not calling for someone to massage my feet during a blood draw. But little, little things can be such a source of comfort when you’re going through hell.

A warm, comfortable, not-revealing hospital gown would likewise give comfort.

Maybe we patients need to rise up and demand an end to the Johnny gown. Oh, right, not everyone is lucky enough to be healthy visiting the hospital to partake in a medical study, many are sick and don’t have the energy for public advocacy. But come on medical establishment: Give us some better gowns.Rhonda Massad, West Island Blog, West Island News, What's up with hospital gowns?? Montreal Grandma


  1. What I find so strange is the amount of complaining about something that is so widely agreed upon: the stupidity of hospital gowns. I just came home from the hospital after gall bladder surgery. While I was in the hospital, very sick and unable to move without assistance, of course, I was forced to wear the dreaded “johnny” or “gown”. I was also forced/encouraged to ambulate, meaning walk around, when I was weak, sick, feverish, and post-op, not to mention exhausted from being constantly woken up at any and all hours. I had nurses, and strangers, comment on my exposed backside while I was ambulating. What on earth do they expect me to do??? I can’t hold the back of the gown shut because I’m using a walker. Unfortunately, my hands are in front of me, holding onto the walker, and I have yet to evolve into a four handed person. Screw multi-tasking. I only have 2 hands. Sorry. I think hospitals should be required to supply real gowns, ones that cover both front and back, buttocks and genitals, ones that preserve the dignity of those who are forced to wear them. Ones that are comfortable (ie. made out of T-shirt material, preferably cotton), ones that are at least approximately close to the proper size for the individual who is forced to wear the foolish thing. What do you think?


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