In her 27 years at Cleveland Clinic, eight years of it was spent as a nurse in the cardiac ICU, Jeanne Ryan saw plenty of action. She probably never envisioned that fashion would become part of her job. But as the liaison for CEO Toby Cosgrove to the clinic’s office of patient experience, she identified a major patient dissatisfier—the gown they all have to wear. A conversation between Cosgrove and award-winning fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg helped spur the redesign, and last fall, the Clinic rolled out the new gown in a pilot.
“We wanted to make this gown for all patients in the hospital, ambulatory or not. So we got together a team and began to attack this. When you’re improving the patient experience, you want this gown to be aesthetically pleasing. Patients are afraid, they don’t feel well, and they have visitors. This is just one attempt to make them feel more comfortable. The modesty part is huge. If their backside is exposed, that’s problematic. From a healthcare worker’s perspective, the old gowns were certainly adequate, but from a patient perspective, they were darn unattractive. There’s a V-neck in the front and back so it can be worn either way. We need IV access, so we made it with snap sleeves. It closes completely in the back for ambulatory patients and wraps around and ties in the front, so it keeps the patient covered. We also made the gown a little longer, and put pockets on it for monitors and drains. Typical hospital gowns are one-size-fits-all. So we made this with four sizes. Each size is a different color, so as a nurse or patient care assistant, it’s easy to tell what size you’re grabbing. It helps patients feel more comfortable when they’re not feeling well. They want to look their best, and whatever we can do to improve their mental attitude is positive.”