Monday, November 15, 2010

What Not To Wear

In my opinion, patients across America should be outraged. We should be up in arms. We should protest. We should picket the hospital entrance. We should demand better. The current state of affairs is unacceptable!

No, I am not using this blog to share my unsolicited opinions on the healthcare reform sweeping this great nation. No, kind reader, I believe patients everywhere should be protesting...

The Hospital Gown.

Experts across the country are applying for and receiving large grants to study cancer survivors' body image issues. I have sat through hours long presentations about all of the reasons why my body image is not what it used to be. During these "Reclaiming your Mojo Post-Mastectomy" workshops, I never heard mention of the fact that the hospitals themselves certainly aren't doing much to boost your self-esteem when they make you wear these
The pattern is called "classic," like a little black dress or a strand of your mother's pearls
No need for further study, docs. I've got the whole cancer survivor body image issue thing figured out. All we need is to enlist the help of Michael Kohrs, Nina Garcia, Heidi Klum, and the contestants of Project Runway to plan a new line of hospital gowns, and all of my body image issues would be resolved forever! I plan to publish these findings in a forthcoming issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

I know that doctors are taught in medical school to disassociate a little. The doctor cannot get too invested in any one patient.  If you form a close relationship with a patient, your judgement could be called into question when, and if, things start going badly. I believe the hospital gown is a critical part of that institutional disassociation. Seeing every patient in the same drab gown takes a little bit of her humanity away.

Every patient you ever talk to says the same thing: she wants her doctor to speak about her situation and prognosis as if this were happening to the doctor's own family, "if you were my daughter," "If Bill were my dad." We don't want to be just another 27 year old, otherwise healthy, single, white female. We want to be: Bridget- walker, blogger, go-to co-worker, wonderful wife, and fashionista.

The hospital gown may make the doctor's job easier. I can't imagine how emotionally draining the oncologist or surgeon's day must be. It might be easier to look a gowned patient in the eyes and give her horrible news.

But from the patient's perspective, the hospital gown must go. Our humanity has already been stripped from us. Our safe, predictable cocoon of day to day life is long gone. Our bodies have been stolen from us by scalpals and drugs and radiation burns. Please don't make me wear that. Please don't make me walk down the hallway and show my bare bottom to the cute intern that just also saw my breast squeezed by the mammogram machine into the shape of sliced bread.

Please, I beg you, have pity on us, hospital. Take just a little bit of your profits and invest in hospital gowns in a variety of sizes. There are companies out there making these things. There is a really cute company called Dear Johnnies that is making monogrammable hospital gowns for expectant mothers. Why couldn't some really wonderful breast cancer and mammography center buy these cuties instead of the classic navy blue and maroon polka dot print?

If you take pity on us, hospital, the uphill battle that is reclaiming our body image post-cancer would be one giant hurdle easier. We wouldn't be constantly reminded of our vulnerability every time we visit the doctor's office. In this fight for my life, the "johnnie" with the faded pattern, the holes, and the missing ties really doesn't help my confidence. I felt much more alive when I walked into this place in my brand new Burberry trench.

For now, I have been known to keep my cute new pair of leopard print wedges on whilst wearing my "Blue Healing Cascade" patterned hospital gown, just to show a little bit of sass. Because I firmly believe that if you just complimented me on my shoe choice, you will do just one more hour's worth of research into a clinical trial, you will think more carefully before giving me that bad news, you will take good care before making an incision in my breast. If you realize that "but for the grace of God go I," if you see your own daughter when you look at me, perhaps you'll try just a little bit harder to save me? 

The Wall Street Journal wrote a 2009 article about the Hospital Gown Dilemma where Hospital Gown Defenders stated that the gown's current "easy-access design 'works well' in emergencies." To that defender I say, forcing patients to walk around the hospital naked would also work well for emergency access, but you would never dare suggest that would you?

In this 21st century world, why must we still rely on tie-closure medical gowns? Surely velcro would be more patient friendly. Everything else in the hospital is secured by velcro. For the love of all that is holy, will someone stand firm and protest with me? Who will lobby Capitol Hill with me for the passage of a federal law banning these?
I took the time this morning to blow dry my hair, and this is how you thank me?

What appointment is he headed to?

Banning the paper, tieback hospital that's my idea of healthcare reform! Who's with me? I plan to see you next Wednesday when I arrive for treatment, ready to join me in protesting these fashion crimes against humanity.


Julie said...

Actually, you're not the only one with this complaint.

Here's one alternative:

Paschall2 said...

Amen sister! As a "soon to be RN", I can feel my patients pain with these gowns. They are always falling off. And please, can we give a little respect to the patient by putting the ties on the side??? I am always holding the back of the gown closed for them which I don't mind at all. The patients say they feel bad for asking. "Bad for asking?" That is the least I can do.
I vote for new hospital gowns! Lets get Clinton and Stacey on this ASAP!!

Liliana Holtzman said...

I agree, I agree, I agree!

How much time and effort would it take to show a little bit of concern for the aesthetic side of things?

Not much, but it makes all the difference in the world.

Best to you, young lady.

Pinkim said...

I am so there with you and Amen to the different size thing...I can barely close mine!

kjl said...

I'm with you, Bridget! It makes me crazy there is usually just one size that clearly doesn't fit all!! With velcro it would be so much easier to actually make one garment more adjustable. Great idea!

Melvin Joe said...

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