Design for Patient Dignity - Inclusive Gown & ICU Cover - Royal College of Art





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Published on Apr 20, 2010

Design for Patient Dignity - Brief 1/7
Design a range of functional patient clothes that significantly reduce the risk of physical exposure and cater for differences in patient size and cultural and religious preferences.

Alongside the Inclusive Gown, which can be worn in most situations, the Helen Hamlyn Centre team also designed a garment for the very specific needs of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) patients.

How they work

Inclusive Gown
This gown fits all sizes and has a belt tie around the waist to help patients stay covered up. It can be worn with the opening at the front or back, and butterfly sleeves (overlapping fabric with an opening down the arm) allow nursing and clinical staff easy access to patients arms. The waist tie can be replaced easily if it becomes damaged — an improvement on traditional gowns, which would normally have to be disposed of. A pocket on the outside of the garment can be used for personal belongings, while one on the inside is big enough to support a catheter bag.

ICU Cover
The Intensive Care Unit Cover is designed for patients at Critical Care Level 3, who are mostly unconscious and stay connected to equipment that cannot be removed. The disposable cover is made from SMS fabric (alternate layers of spunbonded and melt-bonded material). As a non-woven, disposable fabric it also aids infection control. It drapes around the patient, attaching around the arms and neck using peel-off adhesive tabs. Perforated lines make it easy for staff to remove parts of the garment that are not needed, or to tear it open in an emergency. Instructions for putting the gown onto patients would be printed on the front to make it easy for staff to use.

The issue in context
The Helen Hamlyn Centre team researched the whole lifecycle of hospital clothing, from procurement through to how garments are worn, laundered, stored and disposed of. They also considered that hospital garments are used in a wide range of situations, including specialist ICU wards, journeys to and from the bathrooms and leaving the ward for treatment or to socialise, as well as for resting and sleeping.

The designers insights
The team realised that any new garment design would have to meet the needs of the laundry service as well as clinical staff and patients. And with the average lifetime of a hospital gown being 40 cycles of wash and wear, the lifetime costs had to be considered too. Hidden costs include the gowns that patients take home with them — the designers suggested printing a message on the gown about its cost to deter people from taking them — and the fact that if the ties on current gowns become knotted and have to be cut, the whole garment has to be thrown away.



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