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.”
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.
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.